Shedding extra pounds for summer
There’s loads of advice out there regarding how to lose weight quickly, and often with the least possible effort involved. And while your primary reason for wanting to learn how to lose belly fat may be due to vanity, there are also loads of convincing health reasons for wanting to trim down your waistline.
For example, dangerous visceral fat – the type of deep fat that tends to accumulate near your belly, surrounding your vital organs – raises the risk for serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and many others. Fortunately, research shows that losing just 10–20 pounds or around 5–10 percent of your total body weight, including finding out how to lose belly fat, can make a real difference in terms of lowering your risk for developing these serious diseases.
How dangerous belly fat accumulates
Visceral fat is also called “organ fat” or “intra-abdominal fat,” and it’s one of the primary reasons why you must learn how to lose belly fat. This fat lies in close proximity to the vital organs of the body, including the liver, kidneys and other digestive organs, meaning it’s a real health concern. Fat is actually similar to an organ, in that it releases compounds in the blood and alters hormone levels.
When fat is stored close to the vital organs, it’s easier for this fat to get into the bloodstream and circulate through the entire body. This leads to problems such as clogged arteries, hypertension and even problems with metabolic functions. Several hormones are involved in accumulation of belly fat, including insulin, ghrelin, leptin and cortisol.
How to lose belly fat: 11 ways to start trimming your midsection
1. Eat more fat-burning foods
Naturally, the first step in finding out how to lose belly fat starts with food. Eating real foods from nature, instead of fake foods found in packages or boxes, is one of the best and easiest things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Real foods are the ones that humans have been eating for all of history: vegetables, fruits, seeds, clean meats and fish, legumes and others grown in healthy, rich soils without any chemicals added.
Fake foods, on the other hand, are what you want to avoid at all costs. These are most of the foods you’ll find at your local supermarket: bagged, boxed, frozen items loaded with unhealthy additives and preservatives that you don’t want to be putting into your body.
- Focus on eating real foods, especially veggies, when you’re trying to lose belly fat. This will not only help get rid of the unwanted visceral fat but also give your body the vital nutrients it needs to function properly. Believe me, you’ll feel and see the difference when you make the switch from fake foods to healthy, real foods.
- Eating real foods will also result in you eating more of a high-fiber diet, beneficial for controlling appetite, digestion, heart health and more. It’s been stated by certain obesity researchers that “Increasing consumption of dietary fiber with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes across the life cycle is a critical step in stemming the epidemic of obesity.”
2. Stay away from sugar, liquid calories and grains
- Sugar is really bad for you. You especially want to avoid added sugar when trying to lose belly fat – even hidden sources of sugar such as sweetened dairy, juices or packaged snacks made with grains.
- Don’t drink your calories! Drink more plain water, herbal tea or fruit with lemon slices.
- Reduce your intake of grains, especially refined types. All grains are not bad, particularly sprouted or gluten-free grains, but they won’t help you lose weight or recover from a health condition. Instead, focus on vegetables and fruits that are low in sugar and high in fiber, such as raspberries.
3. Eat mindfully
Mindful eating means many things:
- slowing down while you eat, so you’re less likely to scarf down too much, too quickly
- being aware of how much food it takes to make you feel satisfied when eating without becoming overly stuffed
- eating while undistracted and avoiding multi-tasking
- facing emotional or comfort eating, head-on, by figuring out better ways to handle stressors in your life
- eating in a healthy manner, first and foremost, to support your health long-term – rather than just to lose weight quickly.
4. Intermittent fasting
Want to know how to lose belly fat? Then it’s time to introduce your body to intermittent fasting, which is best approached as a shift in lifestyle and eating patterns, not a diet. There’s no need to count calories or measure grams. Simply focus on extending the duration of time between eating the healthy foods you already eat, with a particular emphasis on healthy fats and proteins.
There are several ways to practice fasting, including skipping breakfast, eating all you want five days out of the week, severely limiting calories on some days, not eating anything at all some days or limiting your eating hours to only 6 or 8 hours a day.
The effects of fasting on hormones are multi-faceted:
- it has a dramatic impact on human growth hormone levels, resulting in greater endurance with faster muscle repair and growth
- it may help slow the aging process
- it can help regulate insulin levels, which is key for those who are diabetic or obese
- it might improve detoxification, it helps the body use glucose – sugar from carbs – more effectively
- for many, it usually helps reduce calorie intake as well.
5. HIIT workouts
One of the most effective and efficient ways to lose unwanted belly fat, or simply extra weight distributed all over, is burst training or HIIT workouts. Data indicates that high-intensity interval training is an excellent way to burn fat in a short period of time and help improve the physical performance of athletes of all kinds. High-intensity interval training combines short, high-intensity bursts of exercise, with slow, recovery phases repeated throughout one short 15–20 minute session. It’s done at 85–100 percent of one’s maximum heart rate rather than at 50–70 percent, as during moderate endurance activity.
Most people don’t realize that loads of cardio and aerobic exercise can actually wear down our joints, increase our stress hormones, including cortisol, and contribute to fatigue or overeating. A better option is to alternate the types and intensities of your workouts, doing some at a harder pace but for shorter duration – such as with the Tabata protocol – and others for strength or cardiovascular benefits.
6. Reducing stress
Chronic stress experienced over a long period of time is considered not only dangerous – raising your risk for heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders and autoimmune diseases to name a few – but it’s tied to weight gain and poor eating habits.
Stress manifests in the body in multiple ways you can’t always feel:
- increasing levels of “stress hormones” such as cortisol
- causing blood sugar levels to rise
- altering your appetite
- getting in the way of normal digestion by changing the gut environment
- and affecting the way your thyroid glands and hormones works.
All these health consequences take a toll on your metabolism and ability to control levels of body fat. If you’re up against large amounts of stress in your life – from work, lack of sleep, relationships, finances and other sources – studies show you can greatly benefit from carving out more time from your busy life for stress relievers like regular exercise, meditation, spending time outdoors and keeping up with fun hobbies.
7. Getting enough sleep
A lack of sleep is often one of the most overlooked factors contributing to belly fat, and experts call getting good sleep an “important part of a obesity prevention approach.” Want to find an easy secret for how to lose belly fat? Getting enough sleep helps regulate your stress hormones, controls your appetite better, gives you more energy for physical exercise, may help reduce cravings for sweets and tends to decrease emotional eating.
8. Trying a low-carb or ketogenic diet
Weight loss isn’t always as straightforward as calories in versus calories out. Changing the type of calories you eat can also accelerate weight loss and reduction of belly fat. A ketogenic diet is a strict low-carb diet that is high in filling foods that supply mostly fats and some protein. Reducing carbs helps the body burn stored body fat for energy, usually very quickly.
While this approach to losing belly fat is not a good fit for everyone – such as some athletes, those who are underweight or women who experience hormonal alterations easily – data indicates it may help many struggling with being overweight to drop pounds without feeling hungry or deprived.
If this sounds too extreme for you, carb cycling is another option, which alternates days of low-carb eating with days of higher carb consumption to help keep cravings and fatigue in check.
9. Add in metabolism boosters
- Cayenne pepper: Hot peppers will increase your heart rate, make you sweat and boost your metabolism at the same time. They are also one the best foods to reduce inflammation in your body. Capsaicin, found in cayenne pepper, can increase calories burned after consumption. A study in the British Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that when subjects consumed capsaicin for weight maintenance, fat oxidation – the breakdown of fat – was increased. Capsaicin may also stimulate the production of AMPK, leading to further breakdown of fat. Try adding cayenne pepper to recipes like chicken tenders for an extra fat-burning effect, or try a detox drink with cayenne pepper.
- Matcha Green Tea: When it comes to boosting your metabolism and helping with weight loss, science shows that few things are more beneficial than matcha green tea. In one study, drinking the tea for 12 weeks reduced body fat.
- Seaweed called wakame: If you haven’t heard of this seaweed native to Japan yet, you can bet you will soon. In a Japanese study at Hokkaido University, led by researcher Dr Kazuo Miyashita, data shows that fucoxanthin found in wakame promotes fat burning within the fat cells in animals.
10. Regularly perform ab workouts – Including those suitable for beginners
Even most personal trainers and athletes agree that the quality of your diet is the number one factor to address in order to lose belly fat. Once you improve your eating habits, ab workouts and core exercises are the icing on the cake. Doing about two to four abdominal workouts weekly can strengthen and define your midsection, while you also work on losing body fat all over through improving your diet, sleep and stress levels.
A strong core also helps with balance and stability, improves your posture, and can help eliminate back pain that may be due to carrying extra weight. Some of the best core exercises include V-ups, planks of all kinds, flutter kicks or scissor kicks, burpees, Russian twists and reverse crunches.
11. Work out on an empty stomach
While it’s not the best idea for everyone, such as those who eat dinner early or who feel weak and dizzy when exercising with nothing in their stomach, working out on an empty stomach does seem to have some benefits. It may help improve your body’s response to insulin, keep your calorie intake lower overall, improve performance and boost the amount of body fat you burn for energy during workouts. Yes, it can boost your efforts in learning how to lose belly fat.
However, there’s also the risk of burning through muscle instead of stored glucose, which is the last thing you want to happen when you’re committing to regular strength-building workouts. Everyone is different at the end of the day, but research suggests working out on an empty stomach might work for short distances, but not as well before longer or tougher workouts.
Precautions when trying to lose belly fat
It’s nice to think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to losing belly fat that works for everyone, but this simply isn’t the case. There are many variables at play when it comes to losing belly fat: genetics, how fit you otherwise are, what type of exercise you’re doing, your medical history, hormones, age, gender and so on.
Regardless of the exact type of exercise regime and diet you choose in order to lose weight, several things are important for everyone:
- stay hydrated before, during and after your workouts
- manage stress in your life in whatever way that works for you
- pay attention to how different habits affect your energy levels
- keep track of what makes you feel happiest and least likely to feel fatigued
- consider emotional triggers that make you crave junk food throughout the day
- track your sleep
- speak with a medical or mental health professional if you notice warning signs of more serious health problems.
This article originally appeared on DrAxe.com and is republished here with permission.