What you need to know
So you want to know how to lose belly fat? Well, this topic may be a difficult one to stomach. Take comfort though, there are answers, and achieving a flat stomach is possible. It’s important to inform yourself not only of the solutions, but also the causes, the dangers, and how to ensure long term health. Read on to discover our guide on how to lose belly fat.
The fat facts
There are two types of body fat:
- Subcutaneous fat (the good type). This fatty tissue lies directly under the skin and is essential for body protection. Spread evenly throughout the body; arms, legs, bums and hips, it acts like a shock absorber (to protect your inner body) and doesn’t pose the dangers of visceral fat.
- Visceral fat (excess can harm your health). Everyone has visceral fat, and it isn't all bad. It provides the necessary cushion organs need, known as ectopic fat (fat contained within other tissues). However, if you suffer from excess belly fat, this ectopic fat runs out of safe places to be stored and can accumulate around the belly and vital organs, increasing the risk of common disorders like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart conditions like CVD and CHD.
|Type 2 Diabetes||High Blood Pressure||CVD||Belly Fat|
|In Ireland, over 170,000 people suffer with Type 2 diabetes.||The number of adults in the Republic of Ireland with high blood pressure is expected to rise to nearly 1.2 million by 2020.||Approximately 10,000 people die each year from CVD - including CHD and strokes. That’s more than all cancers combined.||Excess belly fat can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. In a 17-year study involving around 30,000 middle-aged people, it found belly fat to be a leading cause of the condition.|
The fatter facts
You might think being overweight leads to the burden of excess belly fat and its dangers. Yet even those of an average weight are in danger too. In a remarkable study performed by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, over 15,500 people with varying BMI’s and amounts of belly fat, found that those with a ‘normal’ BMI, but more belly fat, were 27% more likely to die than those with an ‘obese’ BMI; who had less belly fat.
How to lose belly fat - the solutions
Belly fat: how to measure
Before you reduce your belly fat it's good to first measure how much you have now and how much you need to lose. To measure:
- Simply measure the circumference of your waist and hip with a tape measure (around the largest point).This gives your waist-to-hip measurement.
- Then, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement.
- If the number is higher than 0.85 for women, or 1.0 for men, they are considered excessive.
- Typically, women with a waist size of 32 inches (80 centimetres) or more, and men with a waist size of 37 inches (94 centimetres) or more, are urged to take action in order to cut down on visceral fat.
Before delving into the solutions it's important to note you cannot aim fat loss on one area of the body (no matter what other sources might say). The solutions may be simple, but they require commitment and time dependent on the required amount of belly fat to lose.
How to lose belly fat through weight loss
Reducing belly fat is possible but only through a reduction in overall body weight. As you achieve weight loss, your belly fat will reduce first.
- Stick to your calorie allowance: The fastest way to slim down your belly fat is by losing weight. Make it easy on yourself - use a free online calorie counter to figure out how many calories you require. If you do fancy a little treat, balance it out with exercise. Burn more calories than you take in and you will lose weight. An average female needs around 2000 calories, while a male should aim to consume about 2500 calories. If you want to lose weight, subtract around 600 calories from your maintenance calorie level. Depending on the amount of exercise you get, you may need to adjust that level from time to time.
- Track your food: Not only do people who track food lose more weight, but they also identify areas where they can make improvements. So, if you think you’re doing everything right and can’t figure out why you aren’t losing weight, keep a food diary. Having a food diary can be a real eye opener, especially when it comes to portion control.
- Follow a diet plan: Alternatively, if you struggle with your diet and don’t know where to start, try a diet plan. A high fibre, low-fat and low-salt diet will help to keep you slim. You may find that a higher protein and lower carbohydrate diet works, as the body starts to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.
How to lose belly fat with exercise
The best way to lose fat and tone up, is by eating healthily and combining a nutritious diet with plenty of exercise. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Any activity you do will help to ramp up your metabolism, but not all activities are equal when it comes to toning up. Here are some of the best belly fat burning exercises.
- Aerobic: Lose belly fat through aerobic, aka cardio exercises like cycling, jogging, walking and swimming. If you have a lot of weight to lose, stick with gentle walking, swimming or cycling – they put less stress on your joints. Research shows that people who combine strength training with aerobic activities lose more belly fat than those who do strength training alone.
- Squats: Squats help to build up your abdominal muscle strength giving you a more toned appearance.
- Yoga: Yoga reduces the amount of stress hormones (cortisol) that the body releases. These hormones interfere with fat metabolism, so less of them means you’ll burn fat more easily. Studies have shown that yoga helps lower the body's stress hormones and increases insulin sensitivity. This can help your body burn food as fuel instead of storing it as body fat.
How to lose belly fat with fat burning foods
If you aren’t exercising, eating healthily and watching your calories – then forget about expecting great results from these foods! They may boost your fat loss, but they will work slowly and should be included as part of an overall lifestyle makeover.
- Low-fat dairy: People who are overweight and eat at least three daily servings of low-fat dairy lose weight and body fat more quickly than people who eats less dairy, but the same calories.
- Cayenne pepper: This spice can jazz up any dish, but it also contains capsaicin which has notches up the thermogenic effect in the body, increasing the rate you will lose body fat.
- Beans: People who regularly include beans in their diets have smaller waists and weigh less than those who don’t eat the food. Low in fat, but high in fibre and protein, beans fill you up without weighing you down.
- Green tea: A 2009 Journal of Nutrition study found that the catechins in green tea may speed up the body's metabolic rate and promote fat loss, especially in the belly.
- Tart cherries: Researchers at the University of Michigan carried out a study in which they gave obese rats a diet of tart cherries along with a typical Western diet. They gave the second group of rats a typical Western diet without the cherries. The rats who ate cherries lost more weight than the other group.
How to lose belly fat through motivation
It's important to stay motivated when attempting to lose belly fat. As explained by qualified personal trainer Andrew Brant, of Edge personal studios, Dublin: "Whether it's weight loss, or simply inches off the belly, the best way to keep motivated is to set realistic short and long term goals." Stay focused!
If you feel you have excess belly fat and would like a medical opinion, doctors advise an MRI or CT scan to measure visceral fat to a precise level. Don’t forget to ask the experts on how to lose belly fat! Visit your local gym for advice on an effective fitness programmes too.