Belly fat is more than just a nuisance that makes clothes feel tight. It’s seriously harmful. Losing belly fat is therefore a common weight loss goal.
Our body has the formerly vital ability to convert excess food energy, for example from sugar, into fat to store the calories for a rainy day. It stores its calorie reserves in the subcutaneous fat tissue, which also serves as an insulator against cold and heat.
Further depots our body creates in the abdominal cavity. The so-called visceral fat coats the internal organs. In the case of a large calorie surplus, the body can even store fat in the muscle cells, in organs such as the heart and liver (fatty liver) and even in the bones.
What belly fat does in the body
However, visceral fat is thought to cause unnoticed inflammatory processes in the body, also known as “silent inflammation”. Sufferers often feel listless or suffer from joint complaints and insomnia because the immune system is weakened by the fight against the permanent inflammations.
In addition, too much belly fat stimulates the release of messenger substances that increase blood pressure and have a negative impact on blood lipid levels and blood sugar levels. As a result, the risk of cardiovascular diseases, i.e., arteriosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes, increases with a growing belly, as does the risk for type 2 diabetes.
For this reason, losing this fat can have significant benefits for health and well-being.
How much belly fat is risky?
Many health organizations use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to classify weight and predict the risk of metabolic diseases. However, this is misleading because it completely disregards health factors such as muscle mass, fat percentage, and especially fat distribution.
Calculated according to the BMI, most bodybuilders would be overweight. The BMI does not reveal how many fat deposits a person has and, above all, where. Yet these factors have a strong impact on the health prognosis.
How do you know how your belly fat is doing? At any rate, not only by body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). A comprehensive health check-up or a simple measuring tape provide more certainty. To measure waist circumference, place the tape midway between the lowest ribcage and the pelvic crest while standing and measure after exhaling. Green light is given for women under 80 centimeters, for men under 94 centimeters.
How to get rid of belly fat
Although it may be difficult to lose fat in this area, there are some ways to reduce excess belly fat. We have compiled for you 6 effective methods for losing belly fat that are supported by scientific studies.
1. Avoid sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages
Foods with added sugars are bad for health. Excessive sugar consumption is one of the main causes of weight gain for many people.
Numerous studies have indicated that an excess of sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to fat accumulation in the abdominal and liver areas. This is because 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.
Some experts believe that this is the main reason for the harmful effects of sugar on health. It increases abdominal fat and liver fat, which leads to insulin resistance and various metabolic problems.
Liquid sugar seems to be even worse in this regard. Since the brain doesn’t process liquid calories in the same way as solid ones. So, when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up consuming too many calories and storing them as fat.
Try minimizing the amount of sugar in your diet and consider eliminating sugary drinks. These include sugar-sweetened beverages, sugary sodas, fruit juices, and various high sugar sports drinks.
To lose belly fat, it’s best to completely avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as:
- Sweet tea
- Alcoholic mixers containing sugar
From sweet drinks, sugar quickly floods the blood, and this is bad for weight. Drink better:
- Fruit and herbal teas
- Coffee pure
Read the labels to make sure products do not contain refined sugars. Even foods marketed as healthy can contain significant amounts of sugar.
It’s important to know that not only refined sugar can lead to an increase in belly fat. Even healthier sugars, such as real honey, should be used sparingly.
Keep in mind that none of this applies to whole fruit, which are extremely healthy and have plenty of fiber, which mitigates the negative effects of fructose.
2. Eat more protein
Protein is an extremely important nutrient and may be the most important macronutrient for weight loss. If you want to lose weight, protein intake is perhaps the most effective change you can make to your diet.
Protein can be particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat. One study showed that people who ate more and better protein had significantly less belly fat. Protein also increases the metabolic rate and helps to maintain muscle mass during weight loss.
Many of the studies observing that protein helps with weight loss, participants got 25-30% of their calories from protein. Therefore, this might be a good range for you to try.
Try increasing your intake of protein-rich foods such as whole eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, lean meat, and dairy products. These are the best protein sources for your diet.
If you struggle with getting enough protein in your diet, a high-quality protein supplement – like whey protein – is a healthy and convenient way to increase your overall intake.
Protein can not only help in losing weight, but also in preventing a new weight gain.
3. Eat fewer carbohydrates
Eating fewer carbohydrates is a very effective way to lose fat, including belly fat. This is supported by numerous studies.
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 participants on the low-carb groups are allowed to eat as much as they want, while those on the low-fat groups are calorie restricted.
Studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets indicate that a low-carb diet specifically reduces fat in the abdomen and around the organs and liver This means that some of the fat lost on a low-carb diet is harmful abdominal fat.
Avoiding refined carbohydrates – such as sugar, candy, and white bread – should be sufficient, especially if you also pay attention to a high protein intake. Consider reducing your carbohydrate intake or replacing refined carbs in your diet with healthy carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, legumes, or vegetables.
If the goal is to lose weight fast, some people reduce their carb intake to 50 grams per day. This puts the body into ketosis, a state in which your body starts burning fats as its main fuel, and appetite is reduced.
Low-carb diets have many other health benefits besides just weight loss. For example, they can significantly improve the health of people with type 2 diabetes.
4. Eat fiber-rich foods
Eating plenty of dietary fiber can help with weight loss. Soluble and viscous fibers have an influence on weight. These are fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that settles in the intestines.
This gel can greatly slow the movement of food through the digestive system. It can also slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The result is a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite.
In a 5-year study, it was observed that eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day was associated with a 3.7% reduction in abdominal fat. This implies that soluble fiber may be particularly effective at reducing harmful belly fat.
The best way to get more fiber is to eat a lot of plant foods, including vegetables and fruits. Excellent sources of soluble fiber include:
- Some grains such as oatmeal
- Shirataki noodles
- Brussels sprouts
You can also try taking a fiber supplement like glucomannan. This is one of the most viscous dietary fibers, and studies suggest that it may help with weight loss. It’s important to talk to your doctor before adding this or any supplement to your dietary regimen.
5. Exercise regularly
This doesn’t mean that you should only do abdominal exercises, as spot reduction – losing fat in one spot – is not possible. Better suited are weight training and cardiovascular exercise, these reduce fat across the body.
Aerobic exercise (cardio) – like walking, running, and swimming – can lead to a significant reduction in abdominal fat. Studies show that this is 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.
Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for preserving and gaining muscle mass. Studies involving people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease have found that resistance training can also help reduce abdominal fat.
One study of overweight teenagers has shown that a combination of strength training and cardio led to the greatest decrease in visceral fat. Another study found that exercise prevented the recurrence of abdominal fat after weight loss, implying that exercise is particularly important during weight maintenance.
Exercise also leads to reduced inflammation, lower blood sugar levels, and improvements in other metabolic problems associated with excess abdominal fat.
6. Track your food intake
Most people know that it’s important what you eat, but many don’t know exactly what they’re eating. You might think you’re eating a high-protein or low-carb diet, but without keeping track, it’s easy to overestimate or underestimate food intake.
Tracking food intake doesn’t mean weighing and measuring everything you eat. If you track food intake every now and then for a few days in a row, you can identify the most important areas for change.
Track your intake of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and micronutrients using an online food log or app. Many tools also allow you to record your exercise and physical activity.
There are no magic solutions to lose belly fat. Weight loss always requires a certain amount of effort, commitment, and perseverance.
Most people can reduce their abdominal fat by making lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet rich in lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and legumes, and exercising regularly.
Predictive planning can also help to achieve certain goals. For example, increasing protein intake to 25-30% of calories or reducing unhealthy carbohydrates.