For most people looking to lose weight, lugging belly fat remains to be a top complaint.
Belly fat is excess abdominal fat surrounding the organs in your stomach. There are three types of fat: triglycerides (the fat that circulates in your blood), subcutaneous fat (the layer directly below the skin’s surface) and visceral fat (dangerous belly fat). Visceral fat is located beneath the muscles in your stomach and poses many dangers to your health when there is too much of it.
Lots of women who set out to lose weight set their sights on a flatter stomach. But if you don’t have a plan of attack to specifically target belly fat, your diet and workout plan could be all for nothing.
It can also feel like the type of body fat which takes the longest time, and in fact, may be the hardest to go. Hence, often referred to as ‘stubborn’ belly fat.
Are you intrigued by those Internet ads claiming to know “the secret to shedding belly fat” or “the one trick to losing belly fat”? If so, you’re not alone. Americans spend countless hours and billions of dollars trying anything and everything to attain a flat stomach.
But is there really a magic bullet — a fast and easy way to get rid of stubborn belly fat — as so many ads and commercials claim?
While having some fat is healthy (and needed for vital functioning), the one type of fat which accumulates around our belly is visceral fat, which builds up between muscle linings, organs and abdominal activity, and is quite dangerous.
It’s impossible to target belly fat specifically when you diet. But losing weight overall will help shrink your waistline; more importantly, it will help reduce the dangerous layer of visceral fat, a type of fat within the abdominal cavity that you can’t see but that heightens health risks, says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. , director of Clinical and Research Physiology at Johns Hopkins.
Ways to Lose Belly Fat
The best way to get rid of belly fat involves considering three major factors: exercise, diet and sleep.
- Regular exercise is one of the best ways to get rid of belly fat. Aim for half an hour of vigorous aerobic exercise at least 4 times a week: jogging, stationary biking and using the elliptical are all great options. Moderate exercises like walking the dog or working in the yard can also help burn belly fat.
- Following a healthy diet is also an effective way to get rid of belly fat. Diets high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, which include foods like fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, healthy fats like avocado and olive oil, and lots of colorful vegetables, build up less visceral fat. Be sure your intake of fluids is adequate
- People who regularly get 6-7 hours of sleep each night tend to have lower measures of visceral fat. Create a healthy sleep schedule for yourself and make sure you stick to it.
Cutting down on belly fat now can save you many health risks later in life. Keep yourself healthy with good sleep, lots of exercise and a healthy low carb diet! Learn about Atkins 20® and Atkins 40® to choose a weight loss plan perfect for you.
Try Curbing Carbs Instead of Fats
When Johns Hopkins researchers compared the effects on the heart of losing weight through a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat diet for six months—each containing the same amount of calories—those on a low-carb diet lost an average of 10 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet—28.9 pounds versus 18.7 pounds. An extra benefit of the low-carb diet is that it produced a higher quality of weight loss, Stewart says.
With weight loss, fat is reduced, but there is also often a loss of lean tissue (muscle), which is not desirable. On both diets, there was a loss of about 2 to 3 pounds of good lean tissue along with the fat, which means that the fat loss percentage was much higher on the low-carb diet.
Think Eating Plan, Not Diet
Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says. Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin —which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits, he says.
The amount of exercise you need for weight loss depends on your goals. For most people, this can mean 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise nearly every day.
You don’t need to dole out big bucks for specialized workout classes or equipment when your two greatest fat burners are with you at all times—yes, your legs. “Running is one of those workouts that you can do anywhere. All you need to do is go outside—you don’t need equipment. At an average pace you can burn up to 600 calories per hour. Of course the more intense and the faster you run the more calories you’ll burn. Depending upon pace you can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour.
You can incorporate intervals of walking, jogging, and running [to not only ease into your run, but also to bump up the calorie burn]. You can also choose to go up hills or do sprints. Going out in the heat you also burn more calories. “I would definitely incorporate running as a great workout to burn belly fat,” says White.
The options for spin today are growing to be more intense and more entertaining at that, with options like SoulCycle, Flywheel, CYC Fitness, and your local gym’s trusty spin class. Locking into a bike will not only skyrocket your fat burn, but the pack mentality may cause you to work harder in an effort to keep up with and surpass your fellow riders. “I definitely would put spinning up there as one of the best fat-burning workouts. First of all, you have that great social scene and music coming together [to boost drive and motivation]. Weight training can sometimes be boring alone, but adding spinning makes things more interesting,” says White.
Researchers at the University of Southern California’s Department of Preventive Medicine found that when you work out with others, you’re more likely to enjoy your sweat session. When you enjoy something, you’re more likely to stick to it long-term. It’s a simple concept, but when it comes to losing belly fat it’s particularly important because fat loss is a marathon, not a sprint.
One good place to begin improving your food choices is to eliminate sugary drinks — and not just soda, but juices. Sugar increases belly fat and fiber reduces belly fat; thus when you’re juicing fruits, you’re removing the fiber, leaving pure sugar. So one quick fix, a very concrete fix, would be eliminating sugary drinks.
Replacing sugary beverages with water will help dramatically cut down your sugar intake, and then once you’ve taken that step, you can figure out how to cut down on foods that are high in sugar.
If you have a sweet tooth and need to put that final accent to your meal, eat an apple, melon or fresh berries. Just remember, fruit is not a substitute for vegetables.
The popular “flat belly diets”embrace much of the wisdom found in eating a Mediterranean diet, which helps everything from brain health to hearth health. The basic premise for both diets is eat foods rich in monosaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that may help reduce your belly fat storage. MUFA-rich foods include olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocodos, and fish. Eating yogurt regularly has also been found to be helpful in reducing belly fat.
Another diet trend that promises results when it comes to belly fat: the apple cider vinegar diet. While animal studies have been promising, current research in humans has yet to show impressive results. The data supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, however, are real and cause for making some dietary changes.
Front-Load Your Meal
Start your meal, especially your largest meal, with seasoned vegetables, be it vegetable soup or the vegetables on your entrée plate. And remember that vegetables should always comprise at least half of your plate and be a mix of starchy (like potatoes) and nonstarchy ones (your leafy greens, broccoli, etc.).
Eating the vegetables first will leave less room for other foods that aren’t as healthy, because vegetable fiber is filling.
How Long Does It Take To Beat Belly Fat?
If you are someone looking around to find the answers for yourself, here’s what you need to know.
Scientifically, you can start to see results and lose belly fat for yourself in something as little as 2 weeks time. That being said, even if the timeline might be short, cutting around inches off your waistline could require a lot of hard work and following the right balance of diet and workout.