It’s fairly common for people to pack extra weight around their midsection. Call it a beer belly, a gut, or just plain fat, but the presence of a little extra weight around your middle probably doesn’t have you winning any shirtless competitions. The sad truth is that you’re not alone. Both men and women are substantially heavier today than they were in the 1960s. If pure vanity isn’t motivation enough, keep in mind that excess abdominal fat is a predictor of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and some cancers.
The good news is that with some time and dedication you can reduce your pooch. While you can’t funnel your fitness and healthy eating efforts to one part of your body, the various strategies outlined below can help you lose weight and beat back the bulge.
1. Exercise in bursts
To burn belly fat, you don’t need to train for a marathon or spend hour after hour on the elliptical. It turns out that if you’re trying to flatten your stomach, experts say that the most effective method is interval training. Interval training incorporates intense periods of work with short recovery segments to increase intensity and minimize recovery time. If you’re a runner, this means sprinting for several minutes and then slowing to a jog for a short recovery period before sprinting again. You can apply this method to whatever you typically do at the gym. Interval training is great because not only does it provide a hard, but short, workout, you’ll keep burning calories for up to 16 hours post-exercise, which is hard to beat.
2. Skip sweets
If you have a little extra weight around your middle, refined sugar should be avoided like the plague. When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver gets flooded with fructose and will be forced to turn it into fat. Numerous studies have proven that excess sugar, particularly fructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly. Don’t just avoid candy and cake — sugary drinks like fruit juice, sports drinks, and of course, soda, are some of the worst things you can consume.
3. Get to sleep
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body shaping goals. Aim for a healthy seven hours of sleep a night to keep yourself well-rested and healthy. It turns out that when you’re tired, your body produces more ghrelin, which triggers cravings for sugar and other fat-building foods. Not getting enough sleep can also alter your hormone production, which will impact your cortisol levels and lead to insulin sensitivity, a major cause of belly fat.
4. Drink smart
When you get rid of those fat-building sugary drinks, replace them with cold water and green tea. Both have proven to help your body burn fat. Cold water increases the metabolic rate of your body, which leads to more calories burned. Squeeze in a half a lemon for an immune system boost and an aid to help your body flush out any unwanted materials or toxins. Green tea is another magic beverage that should become your go-to. The tea contains several compounds, including caffeine and polyphenols. The compounds are able to actually boost your metabolism to speed up the rate at which your body burns calories.
5. Minimize stress
Who would’ve thought that your stress levels could impact your waistline? It turns out over time, your body’s response to insulin decreases with regular exposure to cortisol. Increased insulin levels cause your body to store more fat. Beat the stress bulge by using your breathing to regulate stress levels and calm the body. When most people are stressed, they hold their breath and take sharp, short inhales or rapid shallow breaths. Try to become aware of your own breath and consciously relax your belly and slow down your inhalations and exhalations.
6. Eat right
There are a few things that you can eat to help reduce belly fat. Start by adding more protein to your diet. Protein helps reduce cravings and in some studies, the consumption of protein is directly linked to reduced stomach fat. Aim for protein to make up 25-30% of your daily calories. You can also reduce your daily carb intake and focus on eating more fiber. The best and most natural form of fiber is found in plants, so stock up on your fresh veggies and fruit.