6 Easy Ways To Lose Belly Fat

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For most of us, it is the "love handles" around the mid-section which tends to bother us, but what doctors tend to be more concerned about, is the fat which we can't quite see.  It's not just about how much fat you have, but where you store it, which has greatest impact on your health.

There are 2 types of fats: (i) Subcutaneous Fats - fats located just beneath the skin.  The unsightly fats which wiggles and jiggles in places like the abdomen, thigh, hips and buttocks.  (ii) Visceral Fats - they are hidden from sight, but surround the heart, liver and digestive tract.  This "hidden fat" may be present in people of any size, and they pose the BIGGER threat.  Why?  Because visceral fat makes the body more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, and even certain types of cancer (breast, stomach and colon).

Visceral fat can be measured in a variety of ways. CT scans and full-body MRIs are the most precise, but they are expensive and less readily available.  Using a simple tape measure also allows us to estimate visceral fat levels.  Here's how: 

Measure your waist at the level of the top of the ilium(hip bone). Don't suck in your gut or pull the tape tight enough to compress the area.  Studies show that women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more and men with a measure of 40 inches or more, have dangerous levels of visceral fat.

Also look at your general body shape.  People with an apple shape have a large percentage of their total body fat concentrated above their waist. They're more likely to have more abdominal fat, and therefore more visceral fat compared to  those who are more pear shaped (i.e. those with a larger lower body), where body fat settles primarily below the waist. 

So you've figured that you have increased belly fat.  So what can you do about it?  Well, the bad news is that there is simple no such thing as targeted fat loss.  All the sit-ups in the world will not specifically get rid of belly fat.  Push-ups are just as likely to burn fat from your abdomen.  The other bad news is that your body will take the fat in the reverse order that it put it there.  Which means that the first place it deposits fat, is the last place it will remove it from.

Now for the good news.  There are actually several proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.

We list below the top 6 evidence-based strategies to lose your belly fat.

1. Cut Down On Your Sugar Intake

Studies show that the added sugars in your diet, have a negative impact on your metabolic health.  The high fructose and glucose content of foods like sweetened drinks and fruit juices, flood the liver, and stimulates it to produce fats (lipogenesis).  Much of these fats tend to accumulate in the liver and the belly (viscera).  This in turn increases insulin resistance, which is one of the key features in the development of Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Decide on minimizing the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks.  This would include soft drinks, fruit juices, and even those marketed as high-energy sports drinks. 

Note that this negative impact of frutose, does not apply to that which you get from eating whole fruits. Fruits are healthy.  Carrying on and have them regularly as part of your everyday diet.

2. Increase Your Protein Intake

Eating enough protein is an effective way to lose weight.  Studies have demonstrated that increasing dietary intake of high-quality protein has been associated with favorable changes in body composition. Possible mechanisms for this include the maintenance or accretion of lean mass and/or increased thermogenesis and feeling of fullness.  A 5-year prospective study also also found that protein intake was inversely related to waist circumference. 

 So, increase your consumption of high-protein foods such as lean meats, legumes, eggs and nuts.

3. Cut Down On The Carbs

Low-carb diets have come into the spotlight thanks to the likes of Dr Atkin (The Atkins Diet), who's diet plan involved strict restrictions on carbohydrate consumption.

Low-carb diets work.  Many studies have shown that they cause 2-3x more weight loss than the standard low-fat diet which most tend to follow. However, there is a lot of controversy about why these diets work.   

4. Exercise

Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 days a week. Any form of exercise which causes you to work up a sweat and breathe harder, with your heart rate faster than usual, will help you achieve your goal of waist fat reduction. 

To get the same results in half the time, step up your pace and get vigorous exercise. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has ben shown to be more efficient at burning calories. 

Aerobic exercise (eg. brisk walking, running, swimming, etc) has been shown in numerous studies to reduce belly fat substatially.  Regular exercises also prevents you from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss.

You may read about how doing tummy crunches will help you lose that belly fat.  This is simply not true, because there is no such thing as spot reduction of fat.  Do aerobic exercises instead!

5. Eat Fibre-Rich Foods

Indigestible plant matter constitutes the bulk of our dietary fibre, and increasing your dietary fibre intake has been shown to help with weight loss, including belly fat.  However, not all fibre is created equal.  It appears to be the soluble and viscous fibres that has the most positive effect on weight loss.  They work in the intestinal tract by binding water to form a thick gel.  This gel slows down the movement of food through the stomach and small intestines, and thereby slows down digestion and absorption.  The end result is a prolonged feeling of fullness and a reduced appetite.  

A 5-year study found that eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day was linked to a 3.7% reduction in the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity.  It did not have any effect on the amount of fat under the skin.

6. Get Sufficient Sleep

Sufficient good quality sleep is important for many aspects of health, including your weight. Studies show that people who do not get enough sleep tend to gain more weight, including weight around the belly.

Laboratory studies show that insufficient sleep leads to hormonal alterations, which may favor an increase in calories intake and a decreased energy expenditure.  Thus ultimately leading to weight gain.  Studies also show that sleep disturbance, due to conditions like obstructive sleep apnea, in which quality of sleep is reduced,  may increase obesity risk.

In addition to sleeping at least 7 hours per night, make sure you’re getting sufficient quality sleep.

If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, speak to a doctor and get yourself treated.

Further Reading

The article above is meant to provide general information and does not replace a doctor's consultation.
Please see your doctor for professional advice.