7 Effective Strategies to Reduce Belly Fat
For many people, fat always seems to accumulate around the belly. Of course there are sound physiological reasons why this is so. Yet many of us don’t want to see that happen. However, help is on the way to help you reduce belly fat.
First of all, there are two types of belly fat: subcutaneous belly fat and visceral belly fat.
Subcutaneous Belly Fat
This is the type of fat you can pinch. And it’s located under the skin, between your skin and muscles. Moreover, in moderate amounts, though you may not be thrilled by the appearance, subcutaneous belly fat will not dramatically increase your risk of disease.
And, as you reduce belly fat, subcutaneous belly fat also decreases.
Visceral Belly Fat
First of all, this type of fat is located in the abdominal cavity, behind the muscles and around your internal organs like the stomach, liver, intestines. Also, those with an apple-shaped body (where excess fat is located in the abs area) have a higher risk of health problems. While those with a pear-shaped body (where excess fat is located in the hips and thighs) have a lower risk of health problems.
Most noteworthy, fat is an essential substance in our body. But, it only becomes dangerous when there is too much of it. Furthermore, abdominal fat contains a type of white blood cells called macrophages. In fact, macrophages fight bacteria, viruses and protect us from diseases.
Most of all, excess visceral belly fat is harmful because it’s located near the portal vein. And, the portal vein carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Consequently, substances released by visceral fat, including free fatty acids, enter the hepatic portal vein. Next they travel to the liver, where they influence the production of blood lipids.
In addition, visceral belly fat is directly linked to higher total cholesterol, higher LDL cholesterol, lower HDL cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
So, when you reduce belly fat, you reduce visceral belly fat.
Reduce Belly Fat
Unless you are genetically gifted, most of us find it hard to reduce belly fat. Yet, it can be done. However, it’s a multi-pronged effort. Here are seven strategies to reduce belly fat:
- 3Strength Training
- 6Smoking and Alcohol
Strategy 1. Food
First of all, as we age, insulin production is more sensitive to sugar and salt filled processed food (such as white bread and chips). Consequently our bodies are more likely to store those calories as fat. Also processed foods increase inflammation in the body. Thereby making it harder to reduce belly fat. So the best way to reduce belly fat is to reduce intake of processed foods.
Instead, eat foods such as fruits and whole grains (which are full of antioxidants). Furthermore, these foods have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce belly fat.
Research suggests that people who eat extra amounts of saturated fats (such as meat and dairy) tended to accumulate visceral fat. So drastically cut back on saturated fats to reduce belly fat.
On the other hand, monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and avocados have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. More importantly, you will reduce belly fat if your diet is filled with monounsaturated fats. Meanwhile, the March 2007 issue of “Journal for Diabetes Care” pointed out that eating monounsaturated fatty acids with each meal helped your body burn visceral fat. Especially relevant, monounsaturated fats increase your metabolic rate allowing you to burn fat quicker and help you reduce belly fat.
In addition, polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 in walnuts, sunflower seeds, salmon) also have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. And, studies have found people who consumed extra amounts of polyunsaturated fat had trimmer waistlines - these fats helped reduce belly fat. However, eating too much of any kind of fat will increase your calorie intake and result in weight gain.
Significantly, added sugar has a uniquely harmful effect on metabolic health. First of all, added sugar has a large amount of fructose. Moreover, fructose can only be metabolized by the liver. So, when you consum excess added sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and is forced to turn it all into visceral fat. Furthermore, the increase in visceral fat and liver fat leads to insulin resistance along with a host of metabolic problems.
Moreover, liquid sugar (found in sweetened beverages and ready made fruit juices) is even worse because you end up getting more total calories.
Therefore it is best to avoid added sugar. Instead, eat whole fruits. Whole fruits are extremely healthy and have plenty of fiber to mitigate the negative effects of fructose and help you reduce belly fat. Also, you can drink juices, made in your home, from many kinds of fruits using blenders, smoothie makers, centrifugal, or masticating juicers.
Also, eat more protein. Especially relevant, protein is the most important macronutrient for losing weight. In addition, protein will help you lose weight as well as avoid regaining it. Furthermore, studies show that people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat. Therefore, eating more protein is an excellent way to reduce belly fat.
Meanwhile, cut carbs. Many studies have shown that low-carb diets lead to two to three times more weight loss than low-fat diets. Also, low-carb diets lead to quick reductions in water weight, which gives people near instant results. Furthermore, studies show that low-carb diets specifically target the visceral belly fat. In conclusion, a high proportion of fat lost on a low-carb diet is the dangerous and disease promoting visceral belly fat. Therefore, a low-carb diet is an excellent way to reduce belly fat.
Also, eat foods rich in fiber, especially viscous fiber. Most noteworthy, dietary fiber is mostly indigestible plant matter. However, not all fiber is created equal. Most of all, soluble and viscous fiber has a beneficial effect on your weight. Because soluble and viscous fiber binds to water they form a thick gel in the gut. And, the gel dramatically slows the movement of food through the stomach and small intestines. Furthermore, this slows down the digestion and absorption of nutrients – resulting in a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite. Therefore, eating foods with soluble fiber is also an excellent way to reduce belly fat.
And, the best way to get more fiber is to eat lots of plant foods like vegetables and fruits. Also, legumes are a good source along with cereals like oats.
In addition, you could take a fiber supplement like glucomannan – which has the most viscous dietary fibers and has been shown to cause weight loss.
Strategy 2. Cardio
Cardio exercises like brisk walking, jogging, running, cycling, spinning, elliptical trainers, StairMasters, and others make your heart beat faster, breathe faster, sweat, move your body, and burn fat.
Especially relevant, moderate or high-intensity cardio (such as High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT) is indeed an effective method to reduce belly fat. Furthermore, HIIT is effective because it suppresses appetite and burns fat during and after the exercise. However, to be safe, beginners, seniors, and others with health conditions start HIIT slowly and gradually build up intensity.
On the other hand, low-intensity cardios are not as good ways to reduce belly fat. In fact, a better alternative is to combine low-intensity cardio with 30 second bursts of high intensity cardio. For example, intersperse a brisk walk with 30 second intervals where you walk as fast as you possibly can and maybe sweat. Or intersperse jogging or spinning with 30 second sprints where you go all out. These combination workouts will help you reduce belly fat.
Finally, if you just don't have time for any of the above recommendations, get some minimal aerobics using either under desk steppers, under desk pedals, or under desk ellipticals. You can use these while you are sitting at work or at home. And, if you are elderly, you can use pedals for the elderly.
Strategy 3. Strength Training
First of all, exercising your abs muscles will strengthen them. And abs exercises are one way to reduce belly fat. However, to be really successful, abs exercises are combined with other approaches, described in this article, to reduce belly fat.
Subcutaneous Belly Fat
First of all, abs muscles cannot be seen if they are covered by a thick layer of subcutaneous belly fat. Moreover, several studies have shown that abs exercise alone do not sufficiently reduce subcutaneous belly fat. Most noteworthy, one such study found that neither fat cell size nor subcutaneous belly fat thickness decreased. And this is true for subcutaneous fat all over the body and not just the subcutaneous belly fat.
Finally, one study did find that no matter how intense the exercise, blood flow and fat breakdown were higher in subcutaneous fat that is physically located close to active muscles. Especially relevant, muscle cells cannot directly use the energy in fat cells: they have to get the energy from blood vessels. So fat has to be broken down before the energy components enter the blood stream. And because of this, the fat energy muscles need can come from fat cells anywhere in the body, including those that are physically close to the muscles.
Building Muscle Mass
Most noteworthy, in addition to focusing on abs and core muscles, focus also on building mass in all the major muscle groups. These bigger muscles burn more fat even when they are not being worked. And the more muscle mass you have, the more fat will be burned including the visceral belly fat.
Moreover, exercises that use muscles in your core (abdominals, back, pelvic, obliques) burn calories at a higher rate than say crunches.
Also, planks are great because they don’t just use your core muscles but also your arms, legs and butt muscles.
As a result, strength training is critical to reduce belly fat.
Strategy 4. Sleep
Most noteworthy, research from Harvard University showed that women who slept less than five hours were 30% more likely to gain 30 or more pounds.
Also, research published in the October 2010 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine reported that sleeping 8.5 hours burned the most fat and preserved the most muscle. First of all, those who slept 5.5 hours lost more muscle when compared to those who slept 8.5 hours. Moreover, those who slept 5.5 hours produced more of the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin, which made them hungrier when they work up. And so they ate more.
Especially relevant, with less sleep, the body seeks to meet the increased metabolic needs of longer waking hours. And it does this by shifting into a lower gear that burns fewer calories and burns less fat.
Moreover lack of sleep increases your levels of stress hormone cortisol. And the cortisol causes your body to retain belly fat. Furthermore the cortisol stimulates gluconeogenesis, which causes the body to produce more glucose.
Most noteworthy, the National Institute of Health recommends adults sleep seven to eight hours a night. And, following these recommendations will help you reduce belly fat.
Remedies to Help Your Sleep
Finally, if you don’t sleep seven to eight hour now, or you tend to toss and turn, try these remedies:
And if you still toss and turn, sleep a little longer than the recommended 8 hours.
Strategy 5. Stress
Stress makes you eat more fat and sugar, which in turn leads to more visceral belly fat.
Also, stress unleashes the stress hormone, cortisol. Furthermore, cortisol clings to and enlarges fat cells. And, studies show that the higher levels of cortisol increases visceral belly fat. Also, as mentioned in the previous section stress causes the body to produce more glucose.
Furthermore, stress can deprive you of sleep, exercise less and drink more alcohol – all of which contributing to more belly fat.
There are many techniques to relieve stress and thereby reduce belly fat. Some of these include:
Strategy 6. Smoking and Alcohol
A study in the 2012 issue of “PLoS One” reported that smokers had more belly fat than their non-smoking counterparts. Moreover, smoking may not increase your weight, but the fat you have distributes itself around your abdomen. Furthermore, a 2015 study by scientists at University of Glasgow, confirmed smoking pushed fat around the stomach resulting in an unhealthy apple shaped body rather than the healthy pear shaped body.
Therefore, to reduce belly fat, stop smoking.
Finally, alcohol causes you to eat more of the bad kinds of food. Therefore, to reduce belly fat, drink small portions. Also, doing so lets you participate in the social activity with a smaller negative effect on belly fat.
Strategy 7. Perseverance
It helps to track progress. And, one way to do this is to measure your waist. Most of all, a woman’s waist size is, ideally, less than 35 inches. And a man’s waist size is, ideally, less than 40 inches. Moreover, “quick fixes” are next to impossible. Rather, slow and steady is the best bet to reduce belly fat. Also, continuously look at your eating and exercise habits to find ways to improve them so they fit into the long term strategies.
Obstacles to Reduce Belly Fat
Last of all, to be fair, we should mention obstacles to reduce belly fat. As much as we would like, sometimes, it may be nearly impossible to reduce belly fat.
First of all, genetic predisposition may make it harder or nearly impossible to reduce belly fat.
Also, as men and women get older their metabolic rate decreases. The metabolic rate is the number of calories the body needs to function normally. So as you get older your body doesn’t need so many calories. Consequently, you have to cut back on your food intake, which is hard to do.
Moreover, menopause slows down production of hormones estrogen and progesterone, along with testosterone levels. As a result, women, after menopause, experience weight gain around their abdominal area, making it hard for them to reduce belly fat.Finally, high testosterone levels make it difficult to reduce belly fat. Most noteworthy, women with polycystic ovary syndrome have high testosterone levels, making it hard for them to reduce belly fat.