Every year millions of people try to get in shape, and the majority of them want to know how to lose belly fat. For the most part, weight loss is correlated with a concurrent drop in abdominal fat mass, but there are certain things you can do in particular that have a higher propensity to “dislodge” that stubborn visceral and subcutaneous belly fat. The following 12 evidence-based tips will get you started on reducing your waist circumference.
Implement Strength Training
Engaging in just 2 sessions per week of resistance training significantly decreases abdominal fat and improves insulin sensitivity without simultaneously undergoing a weight loss diet . So, without any changes to your diet, simply implementing strength training into your life can help burn belly fat.
Of course, losing stomach fat is just one of hundreds of benefits of strength training. Strength training also builds muscle and boosts your resting metabolic rate, which will make your weight loss efforts much easier .
Improve Your Insulin Sensitivity
Your insulin sensitivity determines how well your cells respond to insulin. Insulin resistant cells, primarily caused by a sedentary lifestyle and a processed food diet, need higher levels of insulin to shuttle excess glucose out of the bloodstream. When insulin levels are high, fatty acids cannot be easily mobilized.
High levels of visceral fat, the “deep” fat that surrounds inner organs, is associated with reduced glucose tolerance .
This reduced insulin sensitivity creating more visceral fat, which creates an even worse glucose tolerance is a vicious cycle that feeds off one another. The good news is there is plenty you can do to improve your insulin sensitivity and promote abdominal fat loss.
Increase Your Exercise Intensity
In this case, slow and steady does not win the race. In a study comparing the effects of moderate-intensity exercise to high-intensity exercise, only the high-intensity group had a significant reduction in visceral belly fat .
In yet another study, high-intensity exercise reduced total abdominal fat, abdominal subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat when compared to low-intensity exercise, even when exercise time was adjusted to maintain an even caloric expenditure . In other words, with high-intensity exercise you can burn an equal amount of calories in less time and you burn more belly fat.
Incorporate Interval Training
High-intensity interval exercise three times per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of steady-state exercise was associated with significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat, and insulin resistance .
If you don’t already know, high-intensity interval training (or HIIT) is when you do short, alternating intervals of high and low-intensity exercise. For example, you might sprint 100 meters and then walk 100 meters, and repeat that for 20 minutes. You can also incorporate HIIT into your strength training routine by doing circuit training. Alternate sets of squats, burpees, pushups, and pullups with short rest intervals for a great belly fat-blasting workout.
Reduce Stress Levels
A well-rounded fitness program attacks fat loss from all angles, including proper nutrition, exercise, and mental health. Working on how well you tolerate stress can be a key step towards reducing abdominal fat.
I don’t think anyone has to be told that smoking isn’t good for your health, but did you know that current smokers tend to have a higher amount of stomach fat, as measured by the waist-to-hip ratio, than do former smokers or people who have never smoked .
The nice thing about this study is that it also adjusted for other lifestyle factors such as age, BMI, dietary and alcohol intake, and physical activity so that we know these other factors didn’t skew the relationship between smoking and abdominal fat. If you’re a smoker and you’re trying to lose belly fat, it would be prudent to take steps towards quitting the habit.
Limit Alcohol Intake
In a study consisting of 3500 people, alcohol consumption (predominantly wine) is correlated with greater waist-to-hip ratios independent of BMI in both men and women .
That means whether you are an average weight or overweight alcohol drinker, you will likely have more abdominal fat as compared to someone who doesn’t drink as much.
It’s also important to realize there have been plenty of studies showing the health benefits of wine when consumed in moderation. As long as the occasional drink doesn’t lead to other bad lifestyle behaviors such as binging, you can enjoy alcohol here and there.
Increase Fiber Intake
The reason fiber helps you lose belly fat is because it’s a good natural regulator of blood glucose levels. Fiber slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, providing a nice steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. This glucose trickle keeps high insulin levels at bay, and as a result, fatty acids are able to be mobilized. In contrast, a diet low in fiber results in higher insulin levels, reduced insulin sensitivity, and more fat storage.
Reduce Trans Fat Intake
We all know the dangers of trans fat consumption. Among other things, they greatly increase the risk for coronary heart disease . When it comes to losing belly fat, just a 2% increase in calories from trans fat in place of polyunsaturated fats or carbohydrates is associated with a higher waist circumference .
It’s fairly easy to avoid trans fats altogether – you just have to eat a whole foods diet. After all, the majority of trans fat is a man-made concoction. Most trans fat comes in processed, packaged food. But don’t just assume there’s no trans fat in a product just because the front of the box says so. You have to manually look at the ingredients section for hydrogenated oils.
FDA rules allow food marketers to round down to zero if a serving has less than .5 grams of trans fat . That may not seem like much, but if a box has 20 servings, you could potentially be eating 10 grams of trans fat even though they market the product as “0 grams of trans fat”.
Boost Your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Consumption
In a randomized doubled-blind study, supplementing daily for 6 weeks with 4g of fish oil, which is high in the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, significantly increased lean mass, decreased fat mass, and lowered cortisol levels .
Essential fatty acids cannot be manufactured by the body and need to be ingested through your diet. Foods high in omega-3s include fatty fish, walnuts, chia and flax seeds, omega-3 eggs, or any number of the foods on this list.
In most studies, short sleep duration meant less than 7 hours of sleep per night, with an optimal amount being anywhere from 7-9 hours. Of course, the benefits of sleep go way beyond just losing belly fat. Short sleep duration is also associated with a higher risk of hypertension and diabetes, and elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides   .
Eat More Protein
In a randomized controlled study, eating 25% of calories from protein as compared to just 12% resulted in a much greater amount of abdominal fat lost . Elsewhere, studies have shown that substituting a modest amount of protein for carbohydrates can reduce abdominal obesity .
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that fitness individuals increase their protein intake to between .54 and .77 grams per pound of body weight due to increased protein synthesis and recovery demands . Combine that intake with some healthy fats, high-fiber carbohydrates, intense exercise, and plenty of rest, and you have a scientific recipe that will burn belly fat like no other.