6 Simple Ways to Lose Belly Fat, Based on Science

by Kris Gunnars, BSc

Belly fat is not just a problem because it can look bad. In fact, having lots of fat in the abdominal area is strongly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease (1).

For this reason, losing belly fat has massive benefits for your health and can help you live longer.

Excess belly fat is strongly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Losing belly fat has massive health benefits and can help you live longer.

Belly fat is usually estimated by measuring the circumference around your waist. This can easily be done at home with a simple tape measure.

Anything above 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women is known as abdominal obesity.

If you have a lot of excess fat around your waistline, then you should take some steps to get rid of it even if you’re not very heavy overall.

Fortunately, there are a few proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.

Here are six evidence-based ways to lose belly fat.

Eliminate one processed food or drink from your day, like soda, to lose weight.

1. Don’t eat sugar and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks.

Added sugar is very unhealthy. Studies show that it has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health (2).

Sugar is half glucose, half fructose, and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in significant amounts (3). When you eat a lot of added sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and is forced to turn it into fat (4).

Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts offructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly and liver (5).

Some believe that this is the primary mechanism behind sugar’s harmful effects on health. It increases belly fat and liver fat, which leads toinsulin resistanceand a host of metabolic problems (6).

Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don’t get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories (7,8).

Studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60 percent increased risk of obesity in children, for each daily serving (9).

Make a decision to minimize the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks.

This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, sugary sodas,fruit juicesand various high-sugar sports drinks.

Keep in mind that none of this applies towhole fruit, which are extremely healthy and have plenty of fiber that mitigates the negative effects of fructose.

The amount of fructose you get from fruit is negligible compared to what you get from a diet high in refined sugar.

If you want to cut back on refined sugar, then you must start reading labels. Even foods marketed ashealth foodscan contain huge amounts of sugar.

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2. Eating more protein is a great long-term strategy to reduce belly fat.

Proteinis the most important macronutrient when it comes to losing weight.

It has been shown toreduce cravingsby 60percent, boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and help you eat up to 441 fewer calories per day (10,11,12,13).

If weight loss is your goal, then adding protein is perhaps the single most effective change you can make to your diet.

Not only will it help you lose, it also helps you avoid re-gaining weight if you ever decide to abandon your weight loss efforts (14).

There is also some evidence that protein is particularly effective against belly fat.

One study showed that the amount and quality of protein consumed was inversely related to fat in the belly. That is, people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat (15).

Another study showed that protein was linked to significantly reduced risk of belly fat gain over a period of 5 years (16).

This study also showed that refined carbs and oils were linked to increased amounts of belly fat, but fruits and vegetables linked to reduced amounts.

Many of the studies showing protein to be effective had protein at 25-30percent of calories. That’s what you should aim for.

So make an effort to increase your intake ofhigh-protein foodssuch as wholeeggs, fish, seafood, legumes, nuts,meatand dairy products. These are the best protein sources in the diet.

If you struggle with getting enough protein in your diet, then a quality protein supplement (likewhey protein) is a healthy and convenient way to boost your total intake.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, then check outthis articleon how to increase your protein intake.

Bonus tip: Consider cooking your foods incoconut oil. Some studieshave shownthat 30 mL (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day reduces belly fat slightly (17,18).

Cutting refined carbs can help you lose belly fat.

3. Cut refined carbs from your diet.

Carb restriction is a very effective way to lose fat. This is supported by numerous studies. When people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight (19).

Over20 randomized controlled trialshave now shown that low-carb diets lead to 2-3 times more weight loss than low-fat diets (20,21,22).

This is true even when the low-carb groups are allowed to eat as much as they want, while the low-fat groups are calorie restricted and hungry. Low-carb diets also lead to quickreductions in water weight, which gives people near instant results. A difference on the scale is often seen within 1-2 days.

There are also studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, showing that low-carb diets specifically target the fat in the belly, and around the organs and liver (23,24). What this means is that a particularly high proportion of the fat lost ona low-carb dietis the dangerous and disease promoting abdominal fat.

Just avoiding the refined carbs (sugar, candy, white bread, etc) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein intake high.

However, if you need tolose weight fast, then consider dropping your carbs down to 50grams per day. This will put your body into ketosis, killing your appetite and making your body start burning primarily fats for fuel.

Of course, low-carb diets have many otherhealth benefitsbesides just weight loss. They can havelife-saving effectsin type 2 diabetics, for example (25).

Eating more fresh fruits and veggies can help you lose belly fat and keep it off.

4. Eat foods rich in fiber, especially viscous fiber.

Dietary fiber is mostly indigestible plant matter. It is often claimed that eating plenty of fiber can help with weight loss. This is true, but it’s important to keep in mind that not all fiber is created equal.

It seems to be mostly the soluble andviscousfibers that have an effect on your weight (26). These are fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that “sits” in the gut.

This gel can dramatically slow the movement of food through your digestive system, and slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The end result is a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite (27).

One review study found that an additional 14 grams of fiber per day were linked to a 10 percent decrease in calorie intake and weight loss of 4.5 lbs (2 kg) over 4 months (28).

In one 5-year study, eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day was linked to a 3.7percent reduction in the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity (29).

What this implies, is that soluble fiber may be particularly effective at reducing the harmful belly fat.

The best way to get more fiber is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables and fruit. Legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like whole oats.

Then you could also try taking a fiber supplement likeglucomannan. This is one of the most viscous dietary fibers in existence, and has been shown to cause weight loss in several studies (30,31).

Exercise, like weight lifting, can help you lose belly fat.

5. Exercise is very effective at reducing belly fat.

Exercise is important for various reasons. It is among the best things you can do if you want to live a long, healthy life and avoid disease. Listing all of the amazinghealth benefits of exerciseis beyond the scope of this article, but exercise does appear to be effective at reducing belly fat.

However, keep in mind that I’m not talking about abdominal exercises here. Spot reduction (losing fatin one spot) is not possible, and doing endless amounts of ab exercises will not make you lose fat from the belly.

In one study, 6 weeks of training just the abdominal muscles had no measurable effect on waist circumference or the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity (32).

That being said, other types of exercise can be very effective.

Aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, etc) has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies (33,34).

Another study found that exercise completely prevented people from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss, implying that exercise is particularly important during weight maintenance (35).

Exercise also leads to reduced inflammation, lower blood sugar levels and improvements in all the other metabolic abnormalities that are associated with excess abdominal fat (36).

Keeping a food journal can help you eat better and lose belly fat.

6. Track your foods and figure out exactly what and how much you are eating.

What you eat is important. Pretty much everyone knows this. However, most people actually don’t have a clue what they are really eating. People think they’re eating “high protein,” “low-carb” or something else, but tend to drastically over- or underestimate.

I think that for anyone who truly wants to optimize their diet, tracking things for a while is absolutely essential.

It doesn’t mean you need to weigh and measure everything for the rest of your life, but doing it every now and then for a few days in a row can help you realize where you need to make changes.

If you want to boost your protein intake to 25-30 percent of calories, as recommended above, just eating more protein rich foods won’t be enough. You need to actually measure and fine tune in order to reach that goal.

Check out these articles here for acalorie calculatorand a list offree online tools and appsto track what you are eating.

I personally do this every few months. I weigh and measureeverythingI eat to see what my current diet looks like. Then I know exactly where to make adjustments in order to get closer to my goals.

Republished with permission from Authority Nutrition.

Related at Care2

Images via Thinkstock.

50 comments

Mona M
Mona M12 hours ago

Thank you. Exercise and hot ginger (fresh one) tea when the weather is cool.

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Arlene C
Arlene C19 days ago

MERCI

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Amanda M
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Brad H
Brad H2 months ago

thanks

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Karen M
Karen Martinez2 months ago

Good article. Unfortunately, my belly fat and the rest of my body have become really good friends over the years, so getting rid of it would cause the rest of my body to revolt.

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Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Virgene L
Virgene L2 months ago

I'll try. Thanks.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN h2 months ago

Tyfs

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Richard B
Richard B2 months ago

thanks very much

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