While your belly fat won’t go away right away with exercise, you can reduce it even more with a calorie deficit.
Consequently, avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugary drinks, including alcohol.
With this, you can achieve a healthy weight loss of half a pound to a pound per week through diet and exercise.
As much as you want a quick fix, there is no real way to lose belly fat right away. Abdominal fat is often difficult to reduce because it is different from other types of fat. The part you can see and pinch is called subcutaneous fat, and it is just under the skin. The abdomen also contains visceral fat, which surrounds the internal organs within the abdominal walls.
“A healthy level of visceral fat is beneficial for health,” says Maricris Lapaix. She is a personal trainer and nutritionist. Too much visceral fat, on the other hand, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. Therefore, it is important to lose abdominal fat.
Can you lose belly fat in a week?
There are many diets and trends that promise that you can reduce abdominal fat in a matter of days; that is unrealistic and unhealthy. In terms of exercise, abdominal exercises can help you tone your stomach, but you still need to lose weight overall to significantly minimize belly fat.
Since you can’t control where your body loses weight and fat, you need to reduce your overall body fat. “The best way to lose belly fat is to balance an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, and keeping stress levels low,” says Lapaix.
Important: Drastic measures to reduce weight can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle, it is important to consult your GP or nutritionist for advice.
Below are foods and exercises that can help you lose belly fat. You will also find out when you can expect the first results.
What foods help you lose belly fat?
To lose body fat in general, you must be in a calorie deficit. That means you are burning more calories than you are consuming.
“It’s important to reduce your intake of foods high in trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and highly processed foods with added sugars,” says Lapaix. However, skipping food groups to burn belly fat is only a temporary solution. The real key to long-term loss of belly fat is a balanced, individualized diet that you can maintain long-term, she says.
These are the foods to avoid when trying to lose belly fat:
- Sugary drinks: Excessive consumption of beverages such as carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, specialty coffees and soft drinks has been linked to weight gain due to excess added sugars.
- alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of weight gain and obesity. Beer is high in calories and carbohydrates and has been linked to overall weight gain. You may have heard the term “beer belly,” though the idea that beer only increases fat around your waist is largely incorrect. However, it leads to overall weight gain, which in turn can lead to more belly fat.
- Refined grains and sugar products: Foods like cereal, bagels, and donuts have a higher glycemic index than fruits and vegetables. This means that they can cause blood sugar levels to rise. A diet of these foods has been linked to weight gain and should therefore be avoided as sugary foods can easily lead to obesity.
- Fast food: Due to larger portion sizes and low nutritional value, fast food has been associated with weight gain and less success in maintaining weight loss. A small 2018 study looking at 300 college students showed that eating fast food, like pizza and fried chicken, was linked to obesity and specifically excess belly fat.
- processed meat: Meat consumption is associated with a higher intake of saturated fat and total calories, which contributes to weight gain. You should limit your intake of processed meats such as smoked pork, sausage, ham, and bacon.
- high calorie bars: Avoid chocolate bars and energy bars as they are often low in nutrients and high in sugar, fat and calories. Even granola bars and protein bars can be unhealthy if they are high in sugar and calories, so check the nutritional information before purchasing to see the amount of fat and sugar in the product.
These foods support the reduction of abdominal fat:
- protein rich foods: Foods like chicken, turkey, legumes, nuts, whole eggs, fish, and dairy products are great sources of protein that will keep you full longer. They also help you lose weight because a high-protein diet requires more energy for digestion, which in turn burns body fat.
- high fiber foods: Eating plenty of fiber helps control weight and promotes weight loss. Therefore, you should eat more fiber-rich foods like almonds, oatmeal, prunes, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and green beans. Eating fiber-rich fruits and vegetables is also associated with weight loss.
- Water: Drinking enough water speeds up metabolism, which also helps with weight loss. Lemon water can help with weight loss, especially when used as a substitute for sugary drinks. However, it has no additional proven benefits over regular water.
- full grain: Most people consume excessive amounts of refined grains, such as white bread or white rice. However, to reduce and control body weight, it is much better to have a diet rich in whole grains such as wheat, brown rice, barley, oats and rye.
“It’s crucial to adopt a sustainable diet and learn what foods work for you long-term, rather than just looking for a ‘quick fix,'” says Lapaix.
What exercises burn more abdominal fat?
You cannot control where you gain or lose weight. Sometimes called “targeted weight loss” (also known as spot reduction), this approach isn’t realistic, says Lapix. For example, abdominal exercises alone are not enough to eliminate or reduce abdominal fat. “While you often hear about exercise programs that target specific areas, you can’t pick and choose the areas in which you lose weight,” says Lapaix.
For example, resistance training focuses on building muscle by lifting weights or using equipment like resistance bands. Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, focuses on burning calories through resistance exercises like running or jumping rope. “A combination of resistance and resistance training is beneficial for increasing overall body strength and helps reduce body fat,” says Lapaix.
Also, increasing muscle mass (the percentage of your body that is made up of muscle) increases the number of calories your body naturally burns. This is also known as the basal metabolic rate. Therefore, you should do exercises that use your entire body and build muscle. They are best suited for reducing belly fat.
These exercises burn belly fat effectively:
- head squat
- Lateral crawling movements
- sprinter pulls
Results don’t come immediately, so consistency is key. Also, you shouldn’t immediately launch into really intense workouts if you haven’t exercised before, says Lapix. She recommends gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts to avoid injury.
How fast can you really lose belly fat?
By reducing total body fat, abdominal fat is also reduced. However, this process does not happen overnight or within a few days of starting to lose weight. “Healthy weight loss is half a pound to a pound a week,” Lapaix said.
As a 2019 study showed, losing 6 to 7 percent of your total body weight can reduce both subcutaneous and visceral fat. That means if you weigh 82 pounds, it can take 6 to 12 weeks to lose that percentage of your total body weight while reducing belly fat.
However, “there are many factors to consider when determining body composition, including age, gender, current weight, body fat, and muscle mass, to name a few,” says Lapaix. “These affect how fast someone can lose weight, what eating plan to follow, and what level of activity is appropriate.”
The combination of exercise and a healthy diet is more effective than either factor alone. But other practices can also help reduce abdominal fat:
- intermittent fasting
- Self-monitoring, such as keeping a daily food diary
- Do not skip breakfast
- enough sleep
According to Lapaix, higher levels of stress can also lead to the storage of body fat. So find healthy ways to deal with stress and avoid harmful behaviors like smoking and drinking.
What we learn from him
Abdominal fat isn’t just a cosmetic problem: too much visceral fat can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. So, to reduce belly fat, you need to exercise regularly, eat healthy, and keep your stress level low. To lose belly fat, you need to reduce your overall body fat. It may take several weeks before you see the first visible results.
Drastic weight loss measures are unsustainable and only provide temporary results, says Lapaix. Ineffective diets or sudden intense exercise are not sustainable ways to approach weight loss. “Maintaining lifestyle changes with small, gradual changes in diet and physical activity also keeps stress levels low. That increases the likelihood that a person will stick with all parts of their health and wellness journey,” says Lapaix.
This article was translated from English and edited by Ilona Tomić. It first appeared in March 2021 and was revised again. You can read the original here.