Losing and reducing the amount of abdominal fat is important not just for aesthetics, but for your health.
Excess belly fat, particularly the deep visceral fat is a dangerous fat that surrounds your organs and puffs your lower stomach.
It's a predictor of many metabolic syndrome.
According to Diabetes UK, following health concerns are associated with excess visceral belly fat:
- Breast cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Colorectal cancer
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Amongst those women, those with the highest 20% of waist circumferences are 2.75 times more at risk of developing hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer.
Women with the highest 20% of waist-to-hip ratios are 1.95 times more at risk for the same cancer.
According to medical experts, one probable cause for this is increased estrogen levels caused by extra fat in the body. Since high estrogen promotes the growth of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, a high level of excess fat is considered hazardous to the health.
In fact, Harvard Health reported there is a clear correlation between your risk for cardiovascular disease and waist size.
In their findings, every 2 inches of additional waist size can raise your risk for cardiovascular disease by 10%.
They also warn apple-shaped body type to be at a higher risk as it suggests excess fat accumulation in the abdominal area.
But just because you feel your waist is too large doesn't mean you are at risk for abdominal obesity or have excess belly fat.
To fully understand your risk level, you can take a simple test to measure your abdominal fat.
The way to do it is to measure your waist at the navel level.
Here are the 3 simple steps.
- Keeping your abdomen relaxed, measure your waist with a tape measure.
- Next, measure your hips at the widest point, usually at the bony prominences.
- Divide your waist size by your hip size:
Waist (in inches) / Hip (in inches) = Waist-to-Hip Ratio
- For women, anything above 0.85 poses a health risk.
- For men, 0.95 and above is where the risk starts to rise.
Another simpler method to measure excess abdominal fat is by measuring the waist circumference.
Since it involves one measurement instead of two, this is a much simpler way to measure your abdomen fat.
To measure your waist circumference properly, follow the 4 steps below:
- Take your shoes off and stand with your feet together. Be sure your belly is bare. Relax and exhale.
- Using a simple measuring tape, measure your waist a the navel.
- Record the the measurement to the nearest one-tenths of an inch.
- See the belly fat chart below to compare your results.
Belly fat measurement chart
Anything above 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women, is known as abdominal obesity.
If you have a lot of excess fat around your waist, even if you’re not very heavy, it is important that you take some steps to reduce and get rid of the belly fat.
Below I’ll outline a few proven steps that have been shown to be effective at targeting and reducing the fat in the belly.
Here are 7 evidence-based ways to lose belly fat.
- Give up sugar
- Do cardio exercise
- Start resistance training
- Drink lemon water
- Eat high fiber foods
- Drink green tea
- Eat a moderate to low carb diet
1: Give up sugar
Added sugar is extremely unhealthy and harmful.
Despite sugar-free, calorie-free products are increasing in popularity, the average American consumes about 152 pounds of calorie sweetener (sugar) per year. This can be more than some of you weigh!
Another source American Academy of Family Medicine broke down Americans sugar consumption by day and reported:
- The average man consumes 335 calories (about 21 teaspoons) of added sugar each day.
- The average woman consumes 239 calories (about 15 teaspoons) of added sugar each day.
For those fighting to lose a belly, sugar is most likely your belly fat enemy number one.
It is well documented that excess sugar can lead to an increase in fat accumulation in the belly. Quite frankly, evidence of sugar over-consumption is everywhere.
Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet calls out sugar and carb cravings leading to uncontrolled overeating is the reason nearly 70 percent of Americans and 40 percent of kids are overweight.
This nationwide sugar addiction poses a serious concern, considering how fructose and glucose get metabolized by the body very differently.
Here is the difference that turns sugar into a health threat and belly bulging.
Glucose, a vital molecule that comes from starchy foods like potatoes triggers insulin production by signaling the pancreas and moves its way through the bloodstream to get used by every cell in the body.
On the other hand, fructose gets converted to energy by one organ, the liver.
Becuase your liver is solely responsible for metabolization of fructose, when you consume sugar in excess, it gets overloaded and starts turning it into fat.
Also, the excess use of liver can potentially lead to liver damage and other health problems such as production of uric acid—a substance known for links to high blood pressure.
But that's just half the story.
Becuase fructose bypasses the standard path of metabolization that glucose goes through, it fails to stimulate insulin. This lack of insulin involvement tricks your metabolism by leaving out the body's appetite regulating system, failing to properly switch hunger and satiety hormones to control food intake.
For example, with fructose consumption, ghrelin, most known as hunger hormone fails to get suppressed, and leptin, known as the satiety hormone never gets stimulated to send the body the sign of fullness.
These dysfunctions often encourage and lead to overeating, giving the vicious cycle no end.
Fructose overload can also develop insulin resistance and leads to over accumulation of fat in the body.
It's no secret insulin is a key player in "reducing belly fat".
And for many, insulin problems go deeper and beyond your belly, leading to more serious health problems such as diabetes, fatty liver disease, obesity and heart disease.
It's certainly not something you want to mess up by overeating fructose (sugar).
The best way to keep your sugar intake in check is to eliminate liquid sugar and refined sugar or sugar-sweetened beverages from your diet.
This includes fruit juices, various sports drinks, as well coffees and teas with sugar added to them.
Yes, fruits are sources of fructose, but the difference is the added nutritional value.
Added sugar, table sugars and high-fructose syrup don't provide nutrients, but fruits do. This makes eating fruits such as berries, apples, and kiwis far superior options for satisfying your sweet cravings than highly processed sugar induced foods like candy and cakes.
It also provides a way for you to eat a "healthy balanced diet" without completely eliminating sugar, so whenever you feel like you need to eat sweets, try sugar alternative like fruits.
Health.gov suggests added sugar to be no more than 10 percent of your daily calories.
So for a woman on a 1,600 calorie diet, daily calorie limit from added sugar should be 160 a day. (equivalent to 10 teaspoons of added sugar).
While if all your added sugar intake is coming from the table sugar, it's easy to count and track your sugar intake, but that's not usually the case.
You can be taking in sugar from a much wider variety of foods including soft drinks, sweets, pastries, deli items and even dairy products like yogurt.
For those labeled items, knowing how to read nutrition labels can help you quickly assess how much sugar you really are taking in. When you see Nutrition Facts Label, keep in mind the followings:
- 1 gram of sugar = 4 calories
- 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of sugar = 16 calories
You can also use sugar calculator for quick and easy sugar calculation.
2: Aerobic exercise
Cardio (aerobic exercise) is not just a thing for improving heart health and overall health.
Recent research reported cardio is one of the best exercise methods for getting rid of those love handles and tummy fat.
Studies show that doing cardio exercises like brisk walking or light jogging is effective at reducing belly fat, particularly the dangerous visceral fat near your internal organs. Banishing this belly fat is particularly important not just for the aesthetics of it but for various health reasons.
Because visceral fat resides near the living organs like liver and right under the other belly fat, subcutaneous fat, it’s now been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
While if you are a gym rat or weekend warrior who frequently wrestles with resistance for a leaner, stronger body, the idea of cardio for fat loss can be a confusing or even puzzling one.
So we looked to a study that performed a head-to-head comparison of the two popular exercise, aerobics and resistance exercise to determine which training method brings the most efficient and effective path to fat loss, particularly in the stomach area.
In an eight-month-long study done by Duke University Medical Center that followed 196 overweight participants 18 to 70 years of age with a sedentary lifestyle, aerobic training did a far superior job burning calories, citing 67 percent higher calorie burn compared to resistance training.
Aerobic exercises used in the test included 12 miles of jogging per week at 80% MHR.
Resistance group perform resistance training at a volume of 3 sets of 8 ~ 12 repetitions three times a week.
But most importantly, the study reported cardio's significant impact on visceral fat and liver fat.
"Aerobic exercise also did a better job than resistance training at improving fasting insulin resistance, and reducing liver enzymes and fasting triglyceride levels. All are known risk factors for diabetes and heart disease." says Duke researcher.
As for resistance training, it achieved no significant loss in visceral fat, liver fat, liver enzyme levels or improvements in insulin resistance.
When aerobics were combined with resistance, similar results to aerobic exercise alone were achieved.
Slentz, one of the researchers concluded, "Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass. But if you are overweight, which two-thirds of the population is, and you want to lose belly fat, aerobic exercise is the better choice because it burns more calories."
What seems to matter the most and brings the greatest belly fat reductions is calorie expenditure you can achieve from your exercise, and for that, cardio does better.
3: Do weight lifting exercises
Just because resistance training is cited as an inferior choice for belly fat reduction, it gives no reason to skip.
While cardio exercise burns off calories and helps fight pounds off, weight lifting trims the waist according to a study published in Harvard School of Public Health.
In a study Using Weights to Target Belly Fat, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health discovered how a 20-minutes of weight lifting routine can help fight and reduce belly fat.
This came as a surprise to many of us in the health and fitness field because most previous studies leaned on the belief that spot reduction is not possible.
They concluded no exercise such as ab workouts can directly target and burn fat in one specific area of the body.
However, engaging in resistance training or ideally combining it with aerobic exercises could help lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass," says lead author Rainia Mekary, a researcher in HSPH’s Department of Nutrition.
If you’re just doing cardio and eating healthy, what you may not realize is that you’re actually burning and losing muscle mass and slowing your metabolism along the way.
Other resources conclude about 30% of the weight you lose can come from your muscles.
This is known as a starvation mode or adaptive thermogenesis.
The surest way to reverse this and backstop the muscle loss that will also lead to a flabby stomach is to perform resistance exercises like weight lifting.
Studies show that weight lifting exercises keep your metabolism working at its peak and prevent you from losing your muscle mass.
They also work to tone your muscles, making your body look slimmer and more defined.
In our post on weight vs cardio, we touched on the importance of your lean muscles mass. If you haven't read it yet, go here.
To sum up, prevention of muscle loss and development of lean muscle also holds the key to losing belly fat. When you compare the density and mass of fat and muscles, it's easy to see how having more muscle not fat can lead to better aesthetics.
According to Linda Tarr Kent, LiveStrong.com editor, on average, fat's density is 0.9 g/mL while muscle density is 1.1 g/mL.
This makes muscle 18% denser than fat.
By fostering lean muscle mass by incorporating weight lifting or resistance training into your regimen, you can not only see your stomach shrinking but also peek into your abdominal muscles.
It'd be a great loss not to do resistance training, to say the least.
Muscles contribute to as much as 25% of your total resting metabolic rate.
Takeaway here: Do both aerobic exercises and lift weights to assure you’re losing fat and preserving your lean muscle mass at the same time.
4: Lemon Water
Let me be upfront. Lemon water does not directly contribute to losing belly fat.
But what it does is it provides a wealth of health benefits that can positively impact your body to lose fat and belly fat.
Lemon water, in particular, is extremely beneficial when you drink it in the morning on an empty stomach.
"Drinking water with lemon will increase the levels of stomach acids, which will improve the digestion and helps the breakdown of the food you eat more effectively", says Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, and contributor to Cleveland Clinic.
Many people have low stomach acids due to a poor diet and lifestyle factors, and this can lead to indigestion, gas and bloating.
Taking in the acid in lemons may be helpful in supplementing the acid in the stomach and allowing better digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
Another important benefit of lemon water is that it helps to detoxify your liver and make it function more properly. Your liver is one of the most important organs in the body, responsible for performing hundreds of different functions.
An unhealthy liver is filled with toxins, which can disrupt several processes simultaneously and makes you feel terrible.
One of the best ways to get rid of the toxins in your liver is by using lemon peels. D-Limonene, is an amazing natural compound found in lemon and orange peels.
It has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
This health compound has shown to help with liver detoxification enzymes.
According to some studies, it even helps reduce appetite, improve metabolism and remove unwanted fat sludge.
Take away: Start your day off with drinking warm water with a squeeze of fresh lemon. You’ll have an early morning metabolism boost that will give you energy and wake up your digestive system.
My lemon water recipe:
- 1 glass of warm water,
- Squeeze the juice of half a lemon.
Drink up and enjoy!
5. Eat high fiber foods
Fiber offers numerous health benefits, including lowering your risk for diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, constipation and digestion.
Fiber has also been shown to help with weight loss.
New studies are showing that eating high fiber foods can also help reduce abdominal belly fat aside from helping you lose weight and maintaining a healthy weight.
One reason for it is, a diet high in fiber rich foods tends to be more filling and provide a sense of satiety after eating.
This is because human bodies lack the enzymes necessary to break down fiber in the digestive tract.
In short, fiber cannot be digested by our bodies.
Because of this, a meal high in fiber digests slower and keeps us feeling full longer, causing us to snack less throughout the day, explains Mrs, Marjorie Nolan Cohn, registered Dietitian, and Certified Personal Trainer, author of "The 30-Day Belly Fat Fix".
Another weight loss benefit of fiber foods is that they tend to be less energy dense, containing less calories for the same food volume according to MayoClinic.org.
This gives you a better nutrition bang for your buck.
Effects of high-fiber foods on weight loss are also evident in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. They reported that participants with a fiber-rich diet were less likely to gain weight or fat than those with a less fiber-rich diet.
Links between high-fiber diet and less abdomen fat are also seen in other studies.
The same the Journal of Nutrition published study also reported that those who took more fiber from cereals and whole grains had less abdominal fat and overall body fat than those who didn’t eat much fiber at all.
Fiber's belly fat fighting power is clear and proven.
It's apparent we all need more fiber in our diet. In fact, 90% of us can use more fiber.
According to University of Southern California research, more than 90% of Americans aren’t getting their daily recommended allowance of fiber.
This is a huge problem considering the importance of fiber in our diet and its essential place in a healthy balanced diet.
So how much fiber is enough to meet the daily requirement?
- Women should eat anywhere from 21g to 25 grams of fiber per day.
- Men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day.
The best sources of dietary fiber are fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
My favorite places to get my fiber are quinoa, chia seeds, beans, oats, kale and berries like strawberries, blueberries. We also created a full list of 21 best high fiber foods to include in your diet.
When going for fiber, avoid high process foods that claim to contain fiber like the one that made with refined grains. Instead, go for whole foods.
6: Green Tea to burn and reduce belly
Green tea and weight loss are a natural pair. It’s one of the healthiest beverages you can drink.
Research show that the active compounds found in green tea increase the levels of hormones that tell fat cells to break down fat. This releases fat into the bloodstream and makes it available to be used as energy.
Because green tea is less processed than black tea and other tea like oolong, it contains higher concentrations of antioxidants called polyphenols.
In particular, green tea’s catechin polyphenols are credited for the beverage’s possible role in increasing fat burning.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found positive effects of green tea on weight and body fat reduction, particularly from the midsection.
The researchers found that participants who consumed green tea catechins with caffeine saw their belly fat reduced and also lost more weight overall than those who only consumed caffeine.
These results from the study revealed how green can help combat and reduce belly fat.
If you are interested, check out our green tea post as green tea benefit is explained more in detail there.
So, what makes green tea so waist friendly?
Green tea contains compounds called catechins, belly-fat burner that blasts the fatty tissue by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells to the bloodstream (particularly in the belly), and then speeding up the liver’s fat burning capacity.
The easiest way to foster green tea drinking habit is to make a wise swap.
Swap your morning coffee for a cup of green tea for a faster, more efficient weight loss and more health benefits.
Drinking green tea in the morning can increase your:
- Energy expenditure
- Fat oxidation
For those looking for even greater belly fat banishing results, combine green tea with exercise.
One, we already know exercise (aerobic and resistance training) is among the best weapons for fighting and getting rid of belly fat.
Two, it's been found that green tea boosts the results from exercise.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2009 shows that green tea may enhance the stomach-reducing effect of exercise.
Researchers gave subjects either a catechin-caffeine combination or caffeine only and had all participants exercise for at least 180 minutes per week while maintaining a consistent diet. To refresh your memory, catechins is the compounds found in green tea.
Although both groups lost similar amounts of total fat, the catechin group lost more fat from the midsection.
Also, the group who combined 4 to 5 cups of green tea (catechin-caffeine) with exercise lost 2 extra pounds than the group who only exercised.
Long story short, drink more green tea to lose belly fat.
7. Eat a moderate to low carb diet
Even the modest reduction in consumption of high carbohydrates foods may promote loss of deep belly fat, according to a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
It analyzed 69 overweight but healthy men and women. The men and women from the study received food for two for 8 weeks.
The subjects received either a standard lower-fad diet or a diet with a modest reduction in carbohydrates.
The moderately carb-restricted diet contained foods that had a relatively low glycemic index, a measure of the extent to which foods raises blood glucose levels. The diet consisted of 43 percent calories from carbohydrates and 39 percent calories from fat, where the standard diet contained 55 percent of calories from carbohydrates and 27 percent from fat.
Protein made up the other 18 percent of each diet.
At the beginning and end of each study phase, the researchers measured the subjects fat deep inside the abdomen and their total body fat.
The subjects who consumed the moderately carb-restricted diet had 11 percent less deep abdominal fat than those tho ate the standard diet.
They also found that the carb-restricted diet promoted a 4 percent greater loss of total body fat.
The takeaway here is simple. Cut down on carbs to reduce belly fat.
In addition to reduction of belly fat, low carb diet also offers numerous other health benefits.
One of the lead researchers, Gower pointed out that eating a moderate to a low carb diet could also help reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and stroke and coronary artery disease.
Excess deep abdominal fat (visceral fat or inthrall-abdominal, fat raises the risk of the diseases.)
There you have it!
7 proven easy steps to lose belly fat.
A consistent healthy eating plan and exercise program that combine both cardio and resistance training proves to be the best and fastest way to lose weight in your belly and reduce overall total body fat.
It may seem that losing belly fat is an impossible task at first, but it’s really not. Just like anything else worth achieving, it just takes some planning and following through.
These scientific tips I outlined above are proven and are extremely effective when followed consistently.
Sure, it may take some time to see results, but it’s not impossible. But you have to be consistent.
What did you think? which one of these tips do you like and will you apply to your lifestyle? Leave me a comment below to let me know.