The abs are, unfortunately, some of the hardest muscles to tone in the body. The midsection is the first place most people, particularly women, store weight. It's just the way the body works.
"People think targeting just the abs and doing thousands of crunches will help them reach their goals," Joey Gonzalez, CEO and trainer at Barry's Bootcamp, says.
"However, since it's such a difficult spot, targeting the abs requires diet discipline, cardio for fat burning, and strength training for your entire body, not just your abs."
Crunches are not the best option because they put too much pressure on your neck and lower back. That's why they are one of the exercises doctors will never do.
Other culprits, some of which are surprising, are soft drinks, which are slowly killing you, low-fat diets, eating too few carbs, neglecting strength training, and lack of sleep, which leads to weight gain in many ways.
Why Your Belly Fat Isn't Going Away
You can't stay away from carbonated drinks
"A flat stomach with visible abs cannot be achieved if poor eating habits are in place," Gonzalez says. "Anything carbonated will produce unwanted bloat." In a study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, people who drank two or more diet sodas a day had waist sizes that were six times bigger than those who didn't drink diet soda (which is in some ways even worse then regular soda).
You have not cut alcohol
Studies link alcohol consumption to bigger waists because when you drink booze, the liver burns alcohol instead of fat. Booze also has a lot of sugar. Losing weight depends on many factors, but calories in vs. calories out are a huge component. Keep it less than 10 percent of your calories for the day, Joey Gochnour, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer at Nutrition and Fitness Professional, LLC, says. That is usually one drink for women and two for men.
You're not doing enough cardio
"Cardio must be implemented to eliminate excess fat around the abdomen," Gonzalez says. There really is no way around it. You have to sweat. "It could take 6-8 weeks of rigorous high-intensity exercise combining cardio and weight lifting, as we do at Barry's Bootcamp, to see results," he adds. He recommends mountain climbers, jack knives (weighted and without weights), toe touches, table top to reverse pike, Russian twists (weighted and without weights).
You think crunches are enough
"Crunches just don't cut it when it comes to reaching every area of the abdomen," Gonzalez says. "Furthermore, people tend to exhibit poor form with crunches which can lead to potential neck injuries, back pain) and can be an overall waste of time." You can get flat abs without a single crunch. The bird dog, hanging ab machine, dead bug, the hundred, and a hollow hold are a few examples.
You forget the obliques
"You cannot neglect your obliques," Gonzalez says. Side planks and side bends can be effective for that area. "We offer a full day of classes dedicated solely to the abs," he adds. "During these classes, I incorporate a lot of plank variations -- elbow planks, side planks, side planks with bends and leg lifts, and more." Twists, woodchoppers, overhead circles and push-ups balancing on a medicine ball can be really effective as well, he adds.
You neglect strength training
"The biggest misconception people have is that cardio is more important than strength training," Yvette Salva, personal trainer and founder of Yvette Salva Fitness, says. "Strength training is where you will increase your metabolism by adding more muscle to your frame. When you have more muscle, you burn more calories. So strength training should be a priority just as much as cardio."
You follow a low-fat diet
A study found that participants who were on a low-carb diet lost about 10 pounds more than those who were on a low-fat diet. Other research has shown that monounsaturated fat rich diets prevent central body fat distribution. Low-carb diets can be some of the worst things you're putting your body through. So eat monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) coming from nuts, avocado, olive oil and fish.
You don't eat enough protein
Foods that are rich in protein help you lose weight because the nutrient keeps you full for longer. Protein activates the hormone ghrelin which makes our brain tell us that we are full. A study found that obese women who followed a diet that was roughly 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat lost significantly more fat, including belly fat.
You don't drink green tea
If you're having trouble shedding extra pounds off your waistline, try green tea. It has a lot of antioxidants called catechins. They help burn more fat during exercise, according to a medical review. One of the catechins, the EGCG, boosts metabolism. Cells break down more fat, which is then available for energy use.
You're eating too much healthy fat
"Too many calories of any kind will be stored as fat," Gochnour says. Good or bad, the body burns as much as it needs for energy and the rest gets stuck in the belly, legs and glutes. About 20-35 percent of the calories you eat every day should be from healthy fat, he adds.
More From The Active Times:
-- 16 Ways to Burn Calories without Going to the Gym
-- Flat Abs Without a Single Crunch, Plank, or Burpee
-- Best 21 Nutrition Tips from Nutritionists
-- 15 Reasons Why You May Be Feeling Tired During Your Workout