Oh, the dreaded problem of belly fat. It’s a nearly universal issue everyone would like to have the solution to. The place to start is knowing what this fat is. About half of your body fat is located just under the skin1; the other half is stored inside your muscles. Getting rid of this fat is important, and not just for the sake of a slim body. It’s this deeper kind – called visceral fat – that is truly unhealthy, putting your organs at risk and increasing your chances of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and sleep apnea2 (to name a few). Eliminating it once and for all comes down to two basic things: diet and exercise.
As far as your diet and eat habits go, there are a few basic rules to follow. The first (and probably most important) is to cut sugar out of your diet as much as possible. When the liver is inundated with refined sugar, it’s forced to turn it into fat – the exact opposite of what you want. The next few tips can be broken down by your macronutrients:
Carbs: You can’t go completely without them, but you should reduce your intake. Always opt for complex carbohydrates (versus refined ones) as often as you can. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of complex carbs for the weight-conscious. Bonus: the fiber in vegetables will also help you lose belly fat faster!
Fat: Saturated fats are notorious for adding fat to your mid-section; polyunsaturated fats, however, don’t. One study found3 participants who ate 750 additional calories per day of polyunsaturated fats gained more muscle mass and less fat than participants whose 750 extra calories came from saturated fats. A good oil to use is coconut oil; some studies have linked consuming two tablespoons a day to decreased stomach fat.
- Protein: Hands down, eating more protein is the best long-term plan you can have to losing belly fat and never regaining it. Protein boosts your metabolism, curbs your appetite, and cuts your daily caloric intake. Lean, quality proteins have been proven to help you lose weight.
Figuring out what ratio of macronutrients will work is key. According to one authority4, “obese women who followed a diet for eight weeks that was roughly 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat lost significantly more fat – including visceral pudge – than women who stuck to a plan that was 16% protein, 55% carbs, and 26% fat.”
Now let’s talk about your exercise habits. It seems pretty obvious that working out will help you lose belly fat, but the kind of exercise you choose to do will determine how effective it will be. First of all, don’t think the solution is doing more crunches. You will be most effective when you work out your entire body, not just your core. By adding mass to all your muscles, you’ll be making your body a more efficient calorie-burning machine. Here are some ways you can exercise to lose belly fat:
Aerobics: Simple activities like running, walking, and swimming are ideal for burning belly fat. Even just 30 minutes a day of walking will help you see a noticeable difference, if you keep it up long enough. One Duke study5 found jogging 12 miles a week to be a great level for weight loss.
Weight training: You’ll be adding muscle, but don’t think this means you’ll bulk up like a body builder. The right amount of weight training will strengthen your bones, build your muscles, and ultimately tone your figure.
- Yoga: It works wonders in strengthening your core, especially your abdominal and back muscles. One group of women6 who did yoga for 16 weeks lost significant amounts of their visceral belly fat.
If you’re looking for an exercise recipe to blast your belly fat, look no further – here’s one easy routine7 from Chris Freytag you can do at home to help reduce your belly fat:
Cardio warm up [2 minutes]
Forearm plank [30 seconds hold, 15 seconds rest, 30 seconds hold]
High knee run [20 seconds hard, 10 seconds rest, repeat 4 times]
Split jumps [20 seconds hard, 10 seconds rest, repeat 4 times]
Full star plank [30 seconds hold on one side, 15 seconds rest, 30 seconds hold on other side]
Lateral shuffle [20 seconds hard, 10 seconds rest, repeat 4 times]
Bicycle [60 seconds]
Skaters [20 seconds hard, 10 seconds rest, repeat 4 times]
Double leg stretch [30 seconds stretch, 15 seconds rest, 30 seconds stretch]
Core body hops [20 seconds hard, 10 seconds rest, repeat 4 times]
Fully body roll-ups [10-12 slow roll-ups]
*If you’re looking for more exercises, check out our free 310 Fitness Challenge.
Reducing belly fat might be a challenge, but it’s easier than you’d think. Get started today, stick with it, and watch the pounds – and inches! – melt away.