Health & Fitness

How to Lose Belly Fat the Scientific Way

Every year millions of people try to get in shape, and the majority of them want to know how to lose belly fat.

It’s the million-dollar question, and many companies are making more money instead of offering answers. But you don’t need to spend a dime to tighten and tone those abdominals, though. The following 12 evidence-based tips will get you started on reducing your waist circumference.

Implement Strength Training

Losing stomach fat is just one of hundreds of benefits of 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[1]http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/28/3/662.short.

Strength training also builds muscle and boosts your resting metabolic rate, which will make your weight loss efforts much easier [2]http://jap.physiology.org/content/75/4/1847.short. So, without any changes to your diet, simply implementing strength training into your life can help burn belly fat.

Increase Your Exercise Intensity

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[3]http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/met.2008.0060. In other words, with high-intensity exercise you can burn an equal amount of calories in less time and you burn more belly fat.

Yet another 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[4]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730190/.

Incorporate Interval Training

If you want a workout that can help propel you to the next fitness level, burn more calories, increase your speed, improve your power and more, it’s Interval Training.

A simple definition of Interval Training is: short, high-intensity exercise periods alternated with periods of rest. These higher and lower intensity periods are repeated several times to form a complete workout. For example, you might sprint 100 meters and then walk 100 meters, and then repeat this sequence several times.

Interval Training 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[5]http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v32/n4/full/0803781a.html.

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[6]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8286886.

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.

Reduce Stress Levels

Abdominal fat distribution is associated with higher stress and cortisol levels, and this cortisol secretion might be responsible for the link between stress and abdominal fat distribution [7]http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1550-8528.1994.tb00055.x/abstract[8]http://www.psychosomaticmedicine.org/content/62/5/623.short.

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.

Eat More Protein

If weight loss is your goal, then adding protein to your diet is perhaps the single most effective change you can do. It has been shown to reduce cravings by 60%, boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and help you eat up to 441 fewer calories per day[9]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847729[10]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19640952[11]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11838888[12]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/41.abstract.

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[13]http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v28/n10/abs/0802767a.html. Elsewhere, studies have shown that substituting a modest amount of protein for carbohydrates can reduce abdominal obesity[14]http://jn.nutrition.org/content/135/5/1196.short.

There is also some evidence that protein is particularly effective against belly fat.

One study showed that the amount and quality of protein consumed were inversely related to fat in the belly. That is, people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat[15]http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/9/1/5/abstract.

Another study in Denmark showed that protein, especially animal protein, was linked to significantly reduced risk of belly fat gain over a period of 5 years[16]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17023705/.

Don’t Eat Sugar… and Avoid Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Sugar is half glucose, half fructose… and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount [17]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/895.full. When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver gets flooded with fructose and is forced to turn it all into fat [18]http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/54/7/1907.short.

Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly [19]http://www.jci.org/articles/view/37385.

Some believe that this is the primary mechanism behind sugar’s harmful effects on health… it increases belly fat and liver fat, which leads to insulin resistance and a host of metabolic problems [20]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22190023.

Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don’t get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories [21]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19248858[22]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/2/274.full.

Studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children… per each daily serving[23]http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673600040411.

Make a decision to minimize the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks.

Limit Alcohol Intake… Stop Smoking Too

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 [24]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/53/5/1104.short. If you’re a smoker and you’re trying to lose belly fat, it would be prudent to take steps towards quitting the habit.

In another 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 [25]http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=1616191. 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.

Cut Carbs From Your Diet

Carb restriction is a very effective way to lose belly fat. This is supported by numerous studies… when people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight [26]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17228046.

Another studies have shown that low-carb diets are particularly effective at getting rid of the fat in the belly area, around the organs and in the liver [27]http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/1/1/13[28]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21367948. What this means is that a particularly high proportion of the dangerous and disease promoting abdominal fat lost on a low-carb diet.

Just avoiding the refined carbs (white breads, pastas, etc) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein high.

Increase Fiber Intake

Higher fiber intakes are associated with lower visceral fat, smaller waist circumferences, lower waist-to-hip ratios and lower total percent body fat [29]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/719.short[30]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/92/5/1165.short[31]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/90/5/1160.short[32]http://jn.nutrition.org/content/139/10/1950.short[33]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/6/1185.short.

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 [34]http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/014067369390350P. 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 [35]http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/78/4/719.short.

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.

Get Enough Sleep

Are you getting enough sleep? Short sleep duration favors higher abdominal fat levels and is associated with future weight gain and obesity [36]http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/164/10/947.short [37]http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1080/17477160701306144/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false.

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 [38]http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/47/5/833.short[39]http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2007.00569.x/full[40]http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/2/380.short.

What do you think of these belly fat loss strategies? Have anything else you’d like to share?

References   [ + ]

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