How to get rid of belly fat
Fat which is found deep in the abdominal cavity (also known as visceral fat) is one of the most dangerous types. Having too much belly fat increases your risk of a number of diseases, including diabetes and coronary heart disease.
A common misconception is that you can target certain areas of the body to lose fat from, also known as spot reduction. Unfortunately this is not possible. Luckily though, there are measures that you can take to gradually get rid of the fat in your belly.
Weight management (and fat storage) can be summarized by a short & simple equation: calories in – calories out.
The first number represents the energy that you introduce into your body via the food that you eat.
The second number represents the energy that you burn naturally throughout the day, and when you exercise.
When you consume more calories than you burn, the unused calories are stored as fat all over the body. Therefore, in order to start burning fat, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. Doing this forces your body to use its fat stores (including those in the belly) as a source of energy. The longer you do this, the more fat you burn.
Calorie requirements vary from person to person and depend on an individuals height, weight, age, gender, activity levels and overall goals. It is important to have a general idea of how many calories you should be consuming per day. You can calculate a fairly accurate estimate using the tool below.
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 35 year old lady who weighs 80 kg (176 lb), is 165 cm tall and exercises 3 – 5 days a week will need to consume approximately 2300 calories to maintain her weight and 1850 calories to lose weight. If she were to eat 1850 calories per day, she would start to burn fat.
Once you know your calorie requirement, it is also a good idea to calculate your daily calorie intake. Most people are unaware of how many calories they consume per day and usually tend to underestimate the amount.
You can calculate your calorie intake by writing down all of the foods that you would eat on an average day and then refer to a website such as nutritiondata.self.com to obtain the nutritional data of various foods.
An example would be something like the following.
Snack – 1 cereal bar – 139 calories
Snack – 1 pack of tortilla chips – 144 calories
Total: 2312 calories
Alternatively, you can also use an app such as myfitnesspal which will automatically calculate your calorie intake for you.
Once you know your average calorie intake and calorie requirement, you will quickly be able to tell whether you are consuming too many calories. If you are, there are a number of measures that you can take to reduce your calorie intake.
Eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit
Because a large part of vegetables and fruits is water, most are very low in calories. As an example, a cup of broccoli has 31 calories and a medium sized carrot has 25.
This means that you can consume large amounts without having to worry too much about going overboard on calories. Even if you ate 10 cups of broccoli (you don’t need to eat this much!), it would only be 310 calories, but it would fill you up and keep you satisfied for a long time.
Vegetables are high in fiber, which absorbs water when it is eaten and forms a thick gel. This gel can delay the movement of food through the digestive system and therefore keep you feeling full for longer. Indeed, this study found that increased fiber consumption results in decreased calorie intake. Another study found that fiber consumption was linked to a decrease in visceral fat.
Fruit has similar benefits to vegetables and should be consumed in small amounts. Aim to eat at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 – 3 servings of fruit per day.
Eat more protein
Out of the 3 macro-nutrients (the other two being carbs and fat), protein is the most filling. It also increases calorie expenditure slightly. This means that it helps on both ends of the calories in – calories out equation. Eating more protein has been shown to be a very effective method for losing weight.
This study found that increased protein intake resulted in 441 fewer calories being consumed. This is a significant amount and would definitely help towards belly fat burning efforts.
Unsurprisingly, this study found that quality protein intake is inversely related with abdominal fat.
It is recommended that 25 – 30% of your total calories should come from protein. There are lots of protein rich foods that you can include in your diet including fish, meat, lentils, beans, quinoa, eggs, dairy and some vegetables.
Eat high quality fat and carbs
Contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not make you fat. Eating more calories than you require is what makes you fat, and these calories can come from protein, carbs or fat.
The kind of fat and carbs that you eat is important though. You should aim to get most of your fat and carbs from foods that are close to their natural state as possible. This includes foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes and oats. These foods provide a steady release of energy and are rich in vitamins & minerals.
Additionally, if you regularly cook in oil, start using coconut oil. Studies have shown that coconut oil consumption can help reduce belly fat slightly.
The foods that you want to avoid are those that have been heavily processed and contain refined fat and carbs, especially added sugar. Some examples include cakes, cookies and pastries. Not only are these foods very high in calories, they are not very filling. When you eat them they provide large bursts of energy that causes your blood sugar and insulin levels to rise and fall dramatically. This in turn can cause you to reach out for more food.
Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to be very effective when trying to lose weight, so this may be an approach that you might want to try. In this case, most of your calories would come from protein and fat.
Drink lots of water and cut out sugar-sweetened beverages
If you want to burn belly fat, water should be your beverage of choice. The consumption of water helps with weight loss because it boosts metabolism slightly and may also reduce appetite. A handy trick is to drink a glass of water before each meal; doing so might help you to eat less. Water has 0 calories so you can drink plenty of it without having to worry about it affecting your energy intake.
The beverages that you definitely want to reduce your intake of are those that have been sweetened with sugar. This includes sodas and even some types of fruit juice. The problem with these beverages is that the calories obtained from them are not registered efficiently by the body.
When you eat solid food, the act of chewing and the bulk that the food adds to your stomach tells your brain that you have eaten and should feel much less hungry. Unfortunately when you drink a can of cola, all of the calories are not compensated for, which leads to over-consumption of calories later on.
Stick to plain water whenever possible. You can also drink coffee and tea occasionally; the consumption of caffeinated beverages can boost metabolism and assist with fat burning slightly.
By following these tips, you can make changes to the food that you eat and reduce your calorie intake significantly. As an example, here is a revised version of the meal plan that we saw above.
Snack – 1 protein bar – 190 calories
Total: 1820 calories
By including more whole natural foods, increasing protein and eliminating sugary beverages, we were able to save 500 calories.
Exercise is important
Together with a good diet, exercise can be beneficial when trying to lose belly fat. The more active you are, the more energy you use, which means you create a larger net calorie deficit.
This doesn’t mean that you should do an endless number of crunches, because this probably won’t help much. Instead, you should engage in cardiovascular and weight based exercises.
Cardiovascular activities can be anything that you enjoy, including jogging, cycling, swimming, martial arts and even dancing. The more intensely you workout, the more calories you burn.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown to be an effective way of burning body fat. This involves doing short bursts of intense activity followed by longer periods of the same activity at a comfortable pace. An example would be sprinting ‘all out’ for 20 seconds and then jogging for 40 seconds. Repeat this cycle for 15 – 20 minutes. HIIT could result in fat burning for up to 24 hours.
Weight training increases muscle mass. Muscle is active tissue, which means the more muscular you are, the more calories you burn. Try and lift weights or engage in some kind of resistance training a few times a week.
Together with exercise, it is important to get adequate amounts of sleep. Lack of sleep can negatively affect fat loss, so skimping on it is not a good idea. Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but on average you should aim to get around 8 hours per night.
Consuming fewer calories than you burn combined with exercise will help you to burn fat. This fat will be from all over your body, your belly included.