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Belly fat; it’s like a stubborn nemesis that refuses to budge. Many of us fight the battle of the bulge for appearance sake, but there’s much more at stake. Belly fat causes health risks and reducing it should become a priority.
Blast Belly Fat Away!
Discover everything you need to know on how to lose belly fat – exercise tips, food and drinks, and what to avoid.
Causes of Belly Fat
There are many things that contribute to abdominal fat:
- Inactive lifestyle
- Poor diet
- Certain health conditions
Why it’s Dangerous
There are different types of fat, such as subcutaneous fat that gathers just under your skin. But the biggest concern is Visceral fat. This is found between your vital organs like the liver, kidneys, stomach etc. It secretes hormones and chemicals that are linked to all types of diseases, such as:
- Heart disease
- Fatty liver
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- High blood pressure
Both visceral and subcutaneous fat can form around your abdomen. Visceral fat releases more fatty acids into the bloodstream. You can become insulin resistant, which causes issues with your blood sugar levels. Insulin affects the storage of belly fat and other hormonal changes, leading to risk of inflammation.
Are You at Risk?
Belly fat can be obvious, but when does it become dangerous? According to Harvard Medical School, a high risk waist circumference is 35+ inches for women, 40+ inches for men.
Another way to determine your risk is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). Access a BMI calculator here.
Even those who don’t appear overweight can’t get complacent. They can still be storing visceral fat; these cases are commonly referred to as skinny fat.
What is the Best Exercise for Losing Belly Fat?
Losing weight anywhere on your body will help. But if you want to blast belly fat fast, try these exercises:
Core Exercises and Strength Training
- Abdominal Twists
- Mountain climbers
- Push ups and Pull ups
- Stability ball exercises
- Knee/Leg Raises
- Kettlebell swings
- Bench presses and chest presses
- Lateral pulls
- Reverse Lunges with Bicep Curls
- Medicine Ball slams
- Power lifts (deadlifts, clean and jerks, snatches etc.)
- HIIT (high intensity interval training)
- Elliptical exercise
- Stair training
- Circuit training
The more intense your workout, the better the result. CrossFit is a powerful combination of activities listed above (and more).
And don’t underestimate the power of Yoga. There are many Yoga Poses that do wonders for the abdomen too.
Sit-ups vs Crunches
These exercises help tone but they won’t get rid of belly fat on their own. They’re about strengthening rather than burning calories. Many trainers indicate that crunches focus specifically on the abs and obliques. Whereas sit-ups work many muscle groups from the stomach, hips, back and chest to the neck.
The main thing to remember, is any exercise is good exercise.
- Don’t sit for long periods – take regular breaks to get up and move about, go for a walk on your lunch break, use a standing desk at work if possible.
- Suck it up – practise tightening your abdominal muscles throughout the day. Every little bit counts.
- Get regular sleep – this impacts your metabolism and fat burning cycle.
For those trying to lose weight after pregnancy, I encourage you to check out Momma Survival Guide. Her website is full of helpful tips, and she has an article on rebuilding your core after pregnancy. Learn about diastasis recti and exercises that help the abdomen:
This is associated with gut health. It’s made up of trillions of microorganisms in your digestive system that affect your nutrient absorption/energy levels, cholesterol, immunity, metabolism, weight, even your moods (often referred as the ‘second brain’).
You can have healthy or unhealthy bacteria, heavily influenced by your diet, exercise and use of antibiotics. Maintaining good gut bacteria is said to help with weight management, including belly fat.
These days, science can test your microbiome by analysing a stool sample. You can look at ways to restore gut health, such as the Microbiome Diet.
Foods that Help Burn Belly Fat
- High Fiber (vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and grains)
- High Protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes)
- Spicy food (chilis, capsicum/bell peppers, cayenne pepper and black pepper)
Eating spicy food increases body temperature, which effects energy expenditure. Also introduce foods that improve your microbiome like onions and asparagus.
Avoid fad diets and gimmicks as they can mess with your metabolism, affecting your ability to lose weight in the future.
Drinks That Help Burn Belly Fat
- Water – hydrates the body, helps digestion and transporting nutrients to cells
- Lemon water – contains vitamin C and antioxidants to help metabolism and digestion
- Apple Cider Vinegar – contains Acetic acid that helps reduce fat storage and blood sugars
- Cinnamon water – contains cinnamaldehyde that helps metabolism
- Green Tea – full of antioxidants and linked to fat burning during exercise
Avoid sugary drinks like soda, diet soda, energy drinks, flavoured milks and certain juices.
WHAT TO AVOID
If you’re serious about learning how to lose belly fat, there’s certain things to avoid:
Of course this is obvious, but it’s still one of our biggest downfalls. It’s important to recognise exercise for the benefits you’ll gain. Being in a calorie deficit (burning more energy than you consume) contributes greatly to weight loss. The easiest way to ensure this is to exercise regularly.
These are found in processed food and can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. They’re usually added to extend the shelf-life of a product. Trans fats are often found in fast food and snacks: muffins, baking mixes, crackers, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, biscuits and more.
As a general rule, stick to the outer rim of the supermarket and avoid too many products in packets or tins.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
This is made from corn starch and is used as a sweetener. When you find a product claiming to be diet or sugar-free, it will most likely contain this instead (or additionally). It’s added to many processed foods, including cereals, sodas, sauces and dressings and contains no nutrients.
Like sugar, it’s been linked to obesity and diseases such as diabetes, fatty liver and heart disease.
An overload of sugar is one of the main causes of a fatty liver and belly fat. When you eat too much sugar, the liver can’t process all the fructose properly and turns it to fat. This also affects the metabolism and insulin resistance, making it a high risk for Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.
To avoid sugar, start using natural sweeteners like Stevia and honey (be wary of artificial sweeteners like Aspartame). Check the sugar content on the labels of everything you buy – you’d be amazed what products are sold as “healthy” that are actually loaded with sugar.
By cutting out sugar, you also cut out:
- energy crashes
- insulin spikes
- weight gain
- tooth decay
- acne and other skin irritations
Skipping meals can be detrimental to your health. You might think you’re saving yourself calories, but your body can work against this. If it’s not getting enough nourishment, it’ll go into starvation mode, slowing down your metabolism. Instead of burning energy, it’ll store it as fat for future use. This was how the body survived in primal times when people didn’t know when their next meal would be.
If your body is getting the regular nourishment it needs, it’s more likely to burn it.
This contributes to belly fat by messing with your metabolism and interrupting the liver’s normal functions. When you consume alcohol, your liver recognises it as poison and stops all other work. While your brain is enjoying a buzz, your liver is working overtime to try and get rid of it. A few drinks can take the liver anywhere from 10+ hours to process. Any calories consumed in that time will be turned to fat as the liver is solely focused on the alcohol.
The drinks themselves contain a lot of excess calories too. Not to mention it lowers your inhibitions (“Screw cooking, let’s grab a pizza!”) It all adds up.
We’d all avoid stress if we could. Finding ways to relax can be difficult but it’s so important for your health. Stress produces the hormone cortisol. This increases appetite and insulin resistance, which leads to excess weight (particularly around the organs like belly fat).
Stress can affect your microbiome which in turn impacts your sleep, metabolism and moods, adding to more stress. It can be a vicious cycle with stress sometimes leading to excessive alcohol use.
Try and find ways to de-stress, like being active, meditation, yoga or arts and craft.
Be ABsolutely Fabulous
Apply the appropriate changes to diet and exercise and you’ll start to see a different in your stomach. Keep focused on strengthening your core and most importantly stay consistent!