Losing abdominal fat, or belly fat, is a common weight loss goal. Abdominal fat is a particularly harmful type. Research suggests strong links with diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Watching that extra junk add up around your belly puts you at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and early death. Luckily, losing the weight and belly fat doesn’t have to take forever. For this reason, losing this fat can have significant benefits for your health and well-being.
You can measure your abdominal fat by measuring the circumference around your waist with a tape measure. Measures of above 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women are known as abdominal obesity.
Certain weight loss strategies can target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.
Top ways to lose Belly fat
1. Avoid sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks
Foods with added sugars are bad for your health. Eating a lot of these types of food can cause weight gain.
Studies show that added sugar has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health (3).
Numerous studies have indicated that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts offructose, can lead to fat building up around your abdomen and liver.
Sugar is half glucose and half fructose. When you eat a lot of added sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and is forced to turn it into fat.
2. Switching to sprouted bread
Switching to sprouted bread can help out carb-lovers eager to get their fix without going up a belt size, thanks to the inulin content of sprouted grains. The results of a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reveal that found that pre-diabetic study subjects whose diets were supplemented with inulin shaved off more belly fat and total weight than those whose meal plans didn’t pack this healthy prebiotic fiber.
3. Eat more protein
Protein may be the most important macronutrient for weight loss. Research shows it can reduce cravings by 60%, boost metabolism by 80–100 calories per day, and help you eat up 441 fewer calories per day (11, 12, 13, 14).
If weight loss is your goal, adding protein may be the single most effective change you can make to your diet.
Not only can protein help you to lose weight, but it may also help you to avoid regaining weight (15).
Protein may be particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat. One study showed that people who ate more and better protein had much less abdominal fat.
4. Stop Adding Sweeteners to Your Food and Drinks
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to Yale researchers, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar
5. Eat fewer carbohydrates
Eating fewer carbs is a very effective way to lose fat. This is supported by numerous studies. When people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight. More than 20 randomized controlled studies have now shown that low carb diets sometimes lead to 2–3 times more weight loss than low fat diets. This is true even when those in the low carb groups are allowed to eat as much as they want, while those in the low fat groups are calorie restricted.
6. Eat more Nuts
While nuts are high in fat, it’s that very fat that makes them such powerful weapons in the war against a ballooning belly. In fact, a study published in Diabetes Carerevealed that study participants who consumed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like those in nuts, over a 28-day period gained less belly fat than their saturated fat-consuming counterparts while improving their insulin sensitivity.
7. 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.
8. Keep moving
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.
9. Reduce your stress levels
Stress can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone.
Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage (19,20).
What’s more, women who already have a large waist tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress. Increased cortisol further adds to fat gain around the middle (21).
To help reduce belly fat, engage in pleasurable activities that relieve stress. Practicing yoga or meditation can be effective methods.
10. Do aerobic exercise (cardio)
Aerobic exercise (cardio) is an effective way to improve your health and burn calories.
Studies also show that it’s one of the most effective forms of exercise for reducing belly fat. However, results are mixed as to whether moderate or high intensity exercise is more beneficial.
In any case, the frequency and duration of your exercise program are more important than its intensity.
11. Get plenty of restful sleep
Sleep is important for many aspects of your health, including weight. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain more weight, which may include belly fat.
A 16-year study involving more than 68,000 women found that those who slept less than 5 hours per night were significantly more likely to gain weight than those who slept 7 hours or more per night.
The condition known as sleep apnea, where breathing stops intermittently during the night, has also been linked to excess visceral fat.
12. Focus on the way your clothes fit more than reading a scale
As you add muscle mass and lose fat, the reading on your bathroom scale may not change much, but your pants will be looser. That’s a better mark of progress. Measured around, your waistline should be less than 35 inches if you’re a woman or less than 40 inches if you’re a man to reduce heart and diabetes risks.