Posted on March 21 2019
Belly fat seems to be the most common spot people want to target when they lose weight. And it's not just for aesthetics; too much belly fat can be dangerous. Visceral fat, the layer of fat in your abdominal cavity that surrounds vital organs, has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and PCOS, among other conditions.
If you want to get rid of belly fat, the good news is you can implement a number of diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors to make it happen. The bad news is that you can't spot-target fat loss; every person is different and your body decides where the fat comes from when you lose it (yay, genetics!). So if you are looking to get rid of belly fat specifically, no amount of crunches is going to make it go away. But you can lose body fat overall, including from your belly.
Aim For 200-300 Minutes of Cardio a Week
Strength training is a key element to any weight-loss program, but registered dietitian and ACSM-certified personal trainer White, said cardio is still an essential to losing body fat, including from your belly.
"According to the ACSM, in order to lose weight, it is recommended to aim for 200 to 300 minutes a week of cardio," White said. "Shoot for five days a week of 45 to 60 minutes of cardio to really burn body fat and lose weight."
Strength Train With Compound Exercises
Yes, cardio is important for fat loss, but lifting weights can also help you burn calories and lose weight long-term. Strength training will allow your body to build muscle, and more muscle mass means your body burns more calories at rest. Jim recommends strength training about two times a week.
To make the most of your strength-training session, Gerson, said to focus on compound exercises, which are exercises that target groups of large muscles, like barbell squats, deadlifts, and the leg press. "Compound movements concentrating on larger muscle groups will burn the most calories," Gerson said. "If you think about it, you'll feel a lot more tired after doing a barbell squat than doing a bicep curl."
Plus, moves such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses also target your core, so you are working multiple muscle groups at once. "When you burn the fat off your midsection, you'll have built nice muscle underneath that will start to show, which is what gives you that toned look in your midsection," she said.
Cut Back on Sugar
This should come as no surprise: too much added sugar (not just processed sugar) can lead to weight gain, including in your belly, especially if you reach for sodas or fruit juices. Research shows that an increase of sugar-sweetened beverages can lead to more belly fat.
You probably already know to limit the typical sources of sweets, but you also need to pay attention to your labels for other sources of added sugars. Registered dietitian Jeanette said that added sugar can make its way into "healthy" foods like granola, breakfast bars, yogurt, and nut butters. "Having no added sugar is optimal, but striving for only 25 grams (six teaspoons) a day is recommended for those who want to lose belly fat". "If you have a health condition, you may want to limit your sugar intake to 15 grams (four teaspoons) a day."
So far we've focused on diet and exercise, but getting your stress under control is key for shedding body fat, especially in your belly. "Stress releases a hormone called cortisol" Erica. "[The release of cortisol] causes high blood sugar levels by promoting the breakdown of protein stores into glucose to be used as fuel. Over time, persistently high levels of cortisol seen in stress promote the storage of excess glucose as fat in the abdomen, causing belly fat." Not to mention that stress can trigger unhealthy eating habits: how often do you reach for a bag of chips or into the cookie jar after a bad day at work?
Reducing stress in your life is easier said than done, but when you're feeling stressed, implement other coping mechanisms that don't involve food or alcohol: read, go for a walk, take a bath, light a candle, practice meditation, or journal. If you're feeling extra stressed at work, see if you can get up from your desk for a few minutes and take a walk around the office. Plus, getting enough sleep at night — aim for seven hours — will keep your stress levels down and help you feel well-rested to take on the day.