Build Your Core With Nutrition

Can I have dairy and still lose my belly?

Absolutely. In fact, cutting back on the amount of dairy you eat can signal your body to make more fat cells, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. When you don't have enough calcium in your body, it tries to hold on to what's there. This triggers the release of a compound called calcitriol, which increases the production of fat cells. If you want fewer fat cells, eating extra calcium suppresses calcitriol, which breaks down fat and makes your fat cells leaner and your tummy flatter. So enjoy the moo juice, yogurt, or a little cheese. Because dairy does tend to be high in calories, keep your portions small or stick to low-fat varieties. (The USDA recommends that women get three cups of low-fat dairy a day.)

More: 5 Calcium Sources Better Than Milk

Do artificial sweeteners really pack on pounds?

Nutritionists debate this topic as vigorously as politicos argue about tax hikes. There's no direct link between consuming these sweeteners and gaining weight. Still, some research indicates that by providing you with the taste of a high-calorie meal without delivering the calories your brain expects, diet foods made with chemicals, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives can actually leave you craving more food, which causes you to overeat.

Another reason to tone down your diet soda habit, says Aragon: Scientists at the University of Minnesota found that diet sodas and fake sugars may increase your risk for metabolic syndrome, which results in higher levels of belly fat, blood sugar, and cholesterol. So it's a good idea to limit your intake to three or four servings a day at most (one packet of sugar substitute in your coffee is one serving; one can of diet soda is two). If your diet otherwise consists mainly of real foods, you can enjoy a little sweetener, whether it's artificial or not.

More: Sugar substitute suspicions: Fact and fiction

Will taking supplements help reveal my abs?

Most fat-loss pills are a waste of money, and many carry scary risks, says Aragon. The truth is, the fat loss caused by any supplement is minor and is even less significant in people who have a substantial amount of weight to lose, he says. The best and only real way to uncover your abs, permanently, is to focus on what you eat and how you exercise.

I always gorge after a workout. Bad habit?

This is actually the best time to have your largest meal of the day, as long as it's a reasonable size and not a full-on feast. That's because you've just reduced your body's fuel reserves, and food can help aid your recovery. Plus, when your body is in a recovery state, incoming calories and nutrients stand a better chance of being absorbed by muscle tissue instead of being stored in fat tissue. If your goal is to curb uncontrollable hunger after a workout, try lean beef, poultry, or fish, protein-rich foods tend to be very filling. Pair that meat with whole-food, high-fiber carbohydrate sources such as beans. Fiber is another element that can help you feel satiated quickly.

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