Want to Lose Belly Fat
Try these Simple Ways
Excess weight in your midsection can be annoying—not only because it’s so darn tough to ditch, but because it also has an impact on your overall health. Extra belly fat ups your risk of issues such as heart disease and diabetes, and, according to certified strength and condition specialist Michele Olson, PhD, life is filled with sneaky little saboteurs that make putting on the pounds in this area way too easy.
“Due to changes in hormones, daily stresses, lack of sleep, coupled with possibly pregnancies, the fat women gain is often stored increasingly in the belly area,” explains Olson, also a senior clinical professor at Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama.
And while you can’t exactly spot reduce, you can make lifestyle changes that can help you lose belly fat—and fast. Here, healthy-living pros offer their best science-backed strategies for winning the battle of the bulge.
Clean up your diet
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Abs are made in the kitchen. Unfortunately, if you regularly eat ultra-processed foods (think chips, store-bought baked goods, and candy), you won’t be able to see yours. “These foods are produced using sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, which in high amounts has been shown to promote visceral fat accumulation in the liver, leading to weight gain, inflammation, and related diseases,” explains Rachel Fine, RD, owner of To The Points Nutrition.
Instead, opt for eats that have healthy amounts of soluble fiber such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, avocado, and citrus fruits. Research reveals that an increase in these foods is linked to a decrease in visceral—aka belly—fat.
Slow down on spirits
Reducing alcohol intake can also help, says Fine. Alcohol contains about seven calories per gram—”just under fat, which equates to nine calories per gram.” And because alcohol is absorbed quickly, “when over-consumed, alcohol metabolism impairs metabolism of other macro nutrients, such as carbs and fat, promoting…fat storage rather than breakdown,” she says.
While you’re rethinking your drinks, limit your consumption of carbonated beverages as well, advises Vanessa Volitional, RD, a New York City-based registered dietitian, noting that those fizzy drinks, though yummy, can cause belly bloat. (Sorry LaCroix!)
Make sure you exercise
Great news: Working out is good for more than just adding years to your life, boosting your brain health, and reducing stress levels—it can also help you rein in your gut. In fact, research in the journal Cell Metabolism reveals that exercise specifically helps reduce visceral fat.
The key to losing belly fat with exercise, though, is making sure your sweat session is intense. You’ll want to be working at 85% of your max heart rate at least, says Olson. “The higher your heart rate, the higher the release of epinephrine into the bloodstream and cells,” she explains. “A positive side effect of epinephrine is that it also activates greater release of abdominal fat into the bloodstream to be used for energy.”
So what type of exercise is best when it comes to burning belly fat? Olson recommends intense weight training, Tabatha interval training, sprint-style cardio, and kettle bell exercises. Of course, a little ab work won’t hurt either—especially moves (like dead bug) that target the transverse abdominal, the deep core muscles that act like a girdle for the waist, cinching you in all over.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Falling short on zzz’s is also a surefire way to put your waistline in jeopardy. That’s because sleep deprivation knocks your hunger hormones out of whack, leading to an increase in ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and a decrease in lepton, which signals when you are satiated. What’s more, research has shown that when you aren’t well-rested, you’re also more likely to reach for junk food (hello Ben & Jerry’s!)—and it may even become harder for you to build muscle mass.
To help keep belly fat in check, aim to cuddle with your pillow for at least seven to eight hours each night. And if possible, hit the hay at the same time each night—one study found that women who did so and clocked around eight hours of sleep per night had lower body fat.