The tummy area consistently ranks among the top body parts that people most want to change. Although you cannot spot reduce, that is do exercises that specifically target belly fat, there are things that you can do to make it easier to lose fat from the belly area to make your belly smaller and things you might be doing right now that are stopping you from losing belly fat.
Follow the tips below on how to lose belly fat
1. KEEP THIS BELLY FAT HORMONE LOW
Cortisol is a fat-storage hormone that is released by the body in response to stress. Cortisol isn’t a “bad” hormone, like everything else it has a job to do. However, cortisol increases appetite, sugar cravings, causes general weight gain and increases belly fat in stressed individuals. You’ll also want to keep the hormone insulin low, as it also encourages fat storage, particularly in the tummy area. Read on to find out more.
2. DON’T JUST DIET
Women who control their calorie intake and exercise lose more belly fat than women who only diet according to research from Wake Forest University. Remember that cutting calories slows down metabolism, while exercise boosts metabolism. They both help you lose weight, but only exercise will increase your metabolism in the process, helping you burn more belly fat.
4. HIIT TO LOSE BELLY FAT FASTER
Seriously, the tortoise got it wrong! Slow and steady doesn’t win the race. Forget the “fat-burning zone”, which is basically exercising at moderately low intensity. Research shows that exercising at high intensity burns a lot more calories, because it can boost metabolism for up to 2 days after your workout! And it also burns more belly fat. An Australian study showed that women who did 20 minutes of interval training three times a week lost more belly fat than women who exercised at moderate intensity for 40 minutes three times a week. Because this workout is high intensity, you should do it no more than 2 – 3 times per week, on non-consecutive days. Read more about the benefits of high intensity interval training.
3. ADD MUSCLE
Don’t just do ab exercises, go for a full-body strength-training program. During weight loss, quite a bit of muscle is inevitably lost along with fat. However, strength training can minimize the loss of muscle. Importantly, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who do full-body strength-training twice a week lose more body fat than those who don’t, and it helps keep belly fat off.
5. THE TYPE OF EXERCISE MATTERS
According to research the more weight-bearing the exercise, the more fat you burn from your tummy area. Weight bearing exercises is any type of exercise you do on your feet and legs and that works your muscles and bones against gravity. Not only does it burn more belly fat, but is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones. Examples of weight bearing exercises are walking, running, using the elliptical machine, dancing and basketball, to just name a very few. Non-weight bearing exercises are swimming and bicycling.
6. KNOW UR BODY TYPE
There are 3 body types:
- Ectomorphs who are naturally skinny with a fast metabolism, are lightly muscled and appear to have little body fat.
- Mesomorphs who have an athletic build, are well muscled and can lose weight easily.
- Endomorphs who have a sluggish metabolism, higher levels of body fat, gain weight easily and have to work harder than the other body types of lose weight.
It’s good to have an understanding of your body type as each body type responds differently to dieting and exercise. For example, endomorphs tend to do better on low-carb diets and have to work on losing weight without slowing their already slow metabolic rate. Also, knowing your body type will help you set realistic goals. For example, ectomorphs will struggle to boast the ripped abs of a mesomorph, because ectomorphs gain muscle with great difficulty. And while endomorphs can have a flat, toned stomach, it’ll be more difficult (i.e. require a lot more training and clean eating) for an endomorph to achieve 6-pack abs than it would be for a mesomorph. Read more about body types.
7. EXERCISE TO LOSE STOMACH FAT
Research by Duke University showed that women who don’t exercise gained a whopping 12% deep belly fat over just 8 months. In other words, you’re not just exercising to lose belly fat, you have to exercise to prevent GAINING belly fat.
8. TRY BOXING
Boxing is a great exercise to work your core and build those abs. In order to throw a punch and twist your torso, you have to engage your core muscles, working your ab muscles. Boxing also makes for a great cardio workout.
9. DO ENOUGH EXERCISE
Don’t do as little exercise as possible and think that any exercise is better than no exercise. While that is true (within reason) to improve health, you do need to exercise sufficiently to burn fat. A study by Duke University found that people who ran 12 miles a week did enough to keep belly fat off, but not enough to lose belly fat. However, those who ran 20 miles a week lost belly fat. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.
10. BUT TO LOSE BELLY FAT DON’T DO TOO MUCH!
Do not over-exercise. Yes, you can exercise too much. Overtraining stresses the body and is more common in weight training. After about 45 to 60 minutes of weight training cortisol levels rise dramatically. Weight training sessions should be intense, but brief. To avoid overtraining you should match the intensity and length or your weight training sessions to your ability to recover. Some people are able to recover much faster from exercise than others. For example, mesomorphs tend to recover rather quickly from their workouts, while ectomorphs require a much longer period of recovery.
11. NO CRASH DIETS
Avoid crash diets/ very low calorie diets, especially for extended periods, as it stresses the body and increases cortisol. Very low calorie diets can also trigger the body’s starvation response, which slows down metabolism and causes the body to hold onto fat reserves more tightly.
12. FOR A FLAT STOMACH – RELAX!
Research by Yale University shows that women with the biggest bellies also suffered with the most amount of stress, which is thought to be due to chronically elevated levels of fat-storage hormone cortisol. Adopt stress reduction techniques to reduce negative emotions, which increase cortisol, such as anger, anxiety, fear and stress. Also, learn how to nip stress in the bud. Stress is okay; most of us thrive on it, but only for a very short time. Drawn out, continuous stress is different, damaging and unhealthy.
To lose belly fat, get plenty of quality sleep. Sleep deprivation is stresses the body and can raise fat-storage hormone cortisol. Research by Columbia University showed that women who only get 5 hours sleep are almost twice as likely to be obese than women who get 7 hours sleep. The hormones (leptin and ghrelin) that control hunger are also thought to play a role, as insufficient sleep increases appetite, while reducing the feeling a satiety.
14. POST-WORKOUT MEALS
Cortisol levels are elevated after exercise. To keep cortisol as low as possible and maximize recovery after workouts consume a meal or drink immediately after your workout that consists of a combination of protein and carbohydrate.
15. FOR A FLAT TUMMY TRY PILATES!
Pilates may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about shrinking your belly, but it does and it will. Research shows that Pilates will significantly improve posture. Poor posture will give you a bigger belly than you have and give you a pooch even if you hardly have any belly fat. So, if this describes you, consider taking some Pilates classes or follow a Pilates DVD.
16. NO SMOKING!
I know this is perhaps the hardest one if you’re a smoker, but nicotine will impede fat loss from the belly area. So, if you’re serious about getting flat abs, and the other health incentives of smoking cessation haven’t given you enough impetus to stop, perhaps knowing that smokers tend to have more belly fat than non-smokers will help.
Okay, so there is nothing you can really do to turn back the clock, but there are some things that happen with age that aren’t inevitable. For example, as you get older, muscle mass tends to decrease and body fat increases (in physically inactive people this starts after the age of 30), but this is mostly due to sitting more and moving less. A full body resistance program will help prevent the loss of muscle. Remember, muscle helps increase metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories making it easier to lose weight or maintain a health weight. Furthermore, muscle is a sign of youth and is vital in making the body shapely and firm.
18. CARDIO AFTER WEIGHTS TO LOSE STOMACH FAT FASTER
Do your resistance training first, followed by your cardio workout. Japanese research shows that doing cardiovascular exercises after resistance training burns significantly more fat than completing cardio first. The study also found that fat burning was greatest during the fist 15 minutes of the cardio workout done after resistance exercise. In other words, if you’re doing resistance training, try to fit in another 15 minutes of cardio, to boost fat burning.
19. AB EXERCISES FOR A TONED TUMMY
Ab exercises wont help you lose belly fat as such, but it will help build a strong core and give you amazing abs once you’re torched the belly fat with cardio and diet. Research shows that the bicycle crunch, captain’s chair, ab crunch on stability ball, vertical leg leg crunch, long arm crunch and the plank, rank in the top 10 exercises to build ab muscles. Go here to check out these ab exercises with video instruction.
20. STABILITY BALL
The stability ball, also known as a Swiss ball and exercise ball, is one of the best tools to build ab muscles, and probably also one of the cheapest. Just sitting on the ball engages the muscles of the core muscles (abs, obliques and back). Research in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that doing crunches on the stability ball for example, engages the ab muscle far more than traditional crunches on the floor/ mat.
21. WATCH YOUR BACK
It’s great that you’re working on your ab muscles. However, don’t forget your back muscles. You need remember to target your back to counter balance the mostly forward bending ab exercises. Both the back and abdominal muscles provide postural support. Therefore, do a few back strengthening exercises to help prevent back pain, and promote even muscular development front to back. Strengthening your back and ab muscles will help:
- Decrease the likelihood of back pain
- Reduce the severity of back pain
- Protect against injury
22. POSTURE FOR A FLAT STOMACH
This tip won’t actually help you burn belly fat, but it will go a long way in making your belly smaller. Slouching will make your belly bigger or give you a belly, even if you have little belly fat. Good posture is slimming as it pulls you in. Your ears should be aligned over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, your hips over your knees, and your knees over your ankles. Your shoulders should be open and your belly button pulled into your spine. Read more about posture.
23. DRINK WATER
Water may contain zero calories, but it’s power extends well beyond simply being a low- (or no-) calorie beverage. Studies show that water can actually help you lose weight. Research shows that drinking just 2 8-ounce glasses of water before meals can help you lose weight, because you eat up to 90 fewer calories. But more than helping you lose weight, drinking water can help you lose belly fat. Why? Dehydration may raise cortisol levels, which inhibits your efforts to lose belly fat. So, stay well hydrated!
24. BEWARE OF ALCOHOL
If you’re serious about losing belly fat, you’ll need to watch your alcohol intake. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that people who drink alcohol, but don’t binge drink have less belly fat than people who drink occasionally, but heavily (i.e. binge drinkers). Large volumes of alcohol are thought to elevate cortisol, which increases belly fat. In other words, don’t save up for a big night out. Studies also suggest that light to moderate wine drinking (i.e. one glass of wine) can help protect against belly fat.
25. EAT EVERY 3 HOURS
Eating a low-carb, protein snack between your main meals helps stave off hunger and avoids blood sugar spikes. This is important because the lower you are able to keep you blood sugar, the lower the levels of the hormone insulin. Insulin is a hormone that encourages fat storage, particularly of the tummy area, so you want to do what you can to keep insulin levels low. A healthy snack will also help maintain steady energy levels and massively reduce the risk of junk food binges.
26. TO LOSE BELLY FAT CUT OUT SUGAR
Because of the effects food has on our body, it doesn’t just matter how many calories you eat, but what you eat. The hormone that acts in opposition to insulin is called glucagon. Where you want to keep insulin as low as possible, due to its fat-storage effects, you want to keep glucagon levels high, because it mobilizes fat from storage. Whenever you eat a high sugar food or refined carbohydrates (e.g. white bread) your blood sugar spikes, causing insulin to spike and glucagon to be low. Therefore, you want to eat as little sugar as possible.
27. CHEW YOUR FOOD THOROUGHLY
This is important if you want a flat tummy. Chewing your food throroughly is an incredibly easy and effective way to avoid bloating. You should be chewing your food until you can no longer identify what you’re eating by its texture. Chewing tells the rest of your digestive system (stomach & intestines) to start the digestive process. Chewing thoroughly also breaks down the food into finer particles and means that it can be broken down and absorbed better in your gut. If you don’t chew sufficiently, the food isn’t fine enough to be digested, meaning the food remains only partially digested. The undigested food is pounced on by the “bad” bacteria in the colon, which can lead to bacterial overgrowth, flatulence and other symptoms of indigestion.
28. BEFORE A BIG EVENT
If you’ve got an event coming up you’re looking forward to such as a wedding or a beach holiday, eat foods to reduce bloating. Avoid gassy foods such as legumes, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, peppers and spicy foods. Try peppermint, chamomile or fennel tea to beat the bloat, as well as activated-charcoal caplets and probiotics.
29. TO LOSE STOMACH FAT CARBS MATTER
Yes, carbohydrates matter. But we’re not talking low-carb or high-carb, we’re talking the type of carbs you’re eating. Research shows that the type of carbs you consume can have great bearing from where you lose weight. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that dieters who ate whole grains (e.g. dark bread, brown rice, popcorn, bulgur wheat) lost twice as much belly fat than those who consumed the same amount of calories, but ate refined grains (e.g. white bread, white pasta). It is thought that whole grains keep fat-storage hormone insulin lower, and lower insulin levels seem to shrink the size of fat cells in the belly.
30. WHAT YOU EAT IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS HOW MUCH YOU EAT.
It sounds crazy, but it’s true. Research (Framingham Nutrition Studies) shows that women who ate healthy, but consumed 360 calories more had less belly fat than women you ate less, but made poor food choices, eating foods high in bad fats and low in fiber.
31. LOSE BELLY FAT WITH DAIRY
This seemingly innocuous food group, which is rich in calcium, has been shown to help you lose belly fat. Research shows yogurt to be particularly effective in boosting fat loss generally and belly fat specifically, as well as helping maintain muscle mass which generally decreases during weight loss. While not fully understood it is thought that the calcium in dairy may slow down the body’s fat-making process. But before you rush out to buy some calcium supplements, research shows that people who eat 3 cups of yogurt a day lose a lot more belly fat than those who take calcium supplements. So there’s more going on than just calcium. For example, dairy products are not only rich in calcium, but also conjugated linoleic acid, otherwise known as CLA (read more about CLA here), which is another belly fat blasting substance.
32. GO MEDITERRANEAN
A Mediterranean style diet has been shown by a plethora of studies to not just help keep belly fat off, but can actually help you lose weight, especially from the tummy area. Research also shows that it can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the metabolic syndrome and abdominal obesity. The reason the Mediterranean way of eating is thought to target stomach fat is that it is high in healthy fats known as MUFAs (Monounsaturated fats), which is found in foods such as olives, olive oil, avocados, and nuts and seeds. Read more about the best diet to lose belly fat.
33. DITCH THE SCALE
The scales don’t provide an accurate reflection of your progress. If you are exercising, you aren’t just losing weight – your body composition is changing. In other words, you’re losing fat and gaining muscle, which means there’s much more going on than the scales can show. Keep track of your progress using a tape measure to record your vital statistics (read how to take them here). Alternatively, get your body fat percentage measured professionally.