Losing belly fat is one of the most popular fitness-related goals out there. Unfortunately, there is no way to spot-reduce fat, so you can’t target specific areas of the body. However, there are things you can do to reduce your overall body fat, which will of course hit the stomach area and help you lose that unwanted belly fat.
One of the most important things to remember is that, in order to lose belly fat, diet and nutrition are the key components. Exercise is significant too and can aid with fat loss, however you can’t out train a bad diet! Other factors, such as cortisol levels (which rise when you are stressed), mental health, sleep and the intensity of your workouts are also important.
There are actually two types of belly fat: the subcutaneous fat, which doesn’t have high health risks and the visceral fat, which you probably have heard of. Visceral fat is the dangerous fat which surrounds your organs and can lead to serious diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and breathing problems. Belly fat is also linked to stress, so the more stressed you are the more fat your body will store, which will most likely occur in the belly area.
Stress: this is a key player when it comes to belly fat. Cortisol, the stress hormone, rises when the body is put through a situation of high stress, resulting in fat being stored around the stomach. Managing stress is a really crucial way of combating belly fat, as well as improving your mental wellbeing more generally.
Lack of sleep: sleep is integral to the body functioning optimally. If you are not sleeping enough, your body will not be recovering efficiently from all your workouts. This results in an increase of sugar cravings to get you that quick energy intake. Both of these things are not ideal if you’re keen to lose belly fat, and will mean that you won’t reap the benefits of the workouts you’re doing!
Poor nutrition: as mentioned earlier, nutrition is vital when it comes to controlling body fat levels. It is important to fuel your body with whole foods to ensure it will function optimally and has all the vitamins and minerals necessary.
Overtraining: high intensity workouts are all the rage at the moment, but it is important to remember that these types of workouts can wreak havoc with levels of cortisol within the body and can end up doing more harm than good. Ensure you give yourself enough rest days per week and time to recover from the workouts you are putting it through, and be mindful of any daily stressors you may encounter.
- Sleep more: we now know that a lack of sleep can increase cortisol levels, so if you’re keen to reduce belly fat, it is important to ensure you’re sleeping enough; experts recommend between 6 to 8+hours a night. There are lots of different ways to improve your sleep hygiene and enhance your sleeping patterns, but some top tips include cutting out all technology a couple of hours before bed, using “night mode” on electronics in the evening and doing some meditation in the evening to wind down.
- Eat well: eating a breakfast which is high in fat and protein, such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, is the perfect fuel to get your day started. This will satiate you and will encourage you to keep eating well throughout the day. If you feel hungry in between meals, try to make your snacks protein-filled in order to keep your energy levels stable and to fill you up sufficiently; carb-heavy snacks can taste delicious at the time but are unlikely to keep you full for very long, and will lead to an energy dip soon after.
- Implement weight training into your workout routine: try to incorporate 2-3 weights-based workouts a week to encourage the development of lean muscle within the body. On top of this, a yoga class or long walks are great for the mind as well as the body.
Up the fibre: most of us aren’t eating enough fibre, and it’s actually really important for the body. Fibre absorbs water, making us feel full for longer and can therefore aid with weight loss. Some examples of fibre-rich foods are flax seeds, legumes and avocados.
Limit your alcohol intake: there have been numerous studies which link heavy alcohol consumption to higher levels of belly fat. Hungover food cravings don’t tend to be the healthiest foods, while you’re also likely to be consuming late-night drunk food as well.
Keep protein high: protein is vital when it comes to fat loss. It will fill you up for a sustained period of time, as well as raising your metabolic rate. An easy way to up your daily protein is to ensure you incorporate a protein source in every meal and snack you consume: meat, fish, eggs, protein powder, nuts and legumes are all great sources of protein.
Be conscious of your sugar intake: as well as being linked to numerous diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, there is also a correlation between high sugar intake and increased belly fat. While sugars such as honey and maple syrup are sometimes deemed “healthier” because they tend to be unprocessed and contain some nutrients, it is important to be mindful of how much you consume them as they are still sugars.
Switch from refined carbohydrates to unprocessed carbs: replacing refined carbohydrates such as white pasta and pizza (which still has its place in a diet – you don’t have to totally eliminate it!) with whole sources such as brown rice and quinoa can help to reduce belly fat.
Consume fish weekly: fat-rich fish, such as salmon, are a great protein source, as well as being high in omega-3 fatty acids that can help prevent disease and are thought to reduce visceral fat too.
If you’re keen to reduce your belly fat, make sure you implement some of these steps, as well as pay attention to your daily stress levels and your sleep!
Written by Natasha Howe