Okay, you get the point: belly fat = bad. How do you lose it? You have to think beyond crunches and planks and adopt a well-rounded approach. “It’s got to be more losing fat as a whole,” agrees Chris Gagliardi, a certified personal trainer at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Without further ado, here are the best ways to lose belly fat once and for all.
Have a filling, healthy dinner every night. Finish your day with a dinner that is filling but will not overload your metabolism or create fat that is hard for your body to burn. Keep your dinner within 500 calories a meal and focus on a balance of protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. You can also rotate lunch and dinner options every day for variety.
No Sugar and salt in moderation- Refined stuff is a strict no-no, and when it comes to sugar, it is best if you stick to natural sweeteners, like raw honey or stevia. Steer clear of refined table salt and choose rock salt or the Himalayan pink salt. Common salt has fallen out of favor recently as it results in a depletion of important minerals from your body at the cellular level.
It’s important to do full-body strength training if you want to lose belly fat—especially if you’re trying to keep it off for the long haul. “Strength training should be a part of just about everybody’s exercise plan,” says Dr. Cheskin. That’s because strength training helps you build muscle, which will replace body fat. And because muscle is metabolically active, you'll continue to burn calories after working out, thereby, reducing overall body fat. Bonus: When your metabolic rate becomes faster due to muscle growth, you’ll have a little more wiggle room in your diet if that’s something you struggle with, says Dr. Cheskin.
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
If you're not up for crunching numbers every day, you can take a more generalized approach. “For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “Now, I’m going to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and cut my calories in half." To get started, consider these 25 ways to cut 500 calories a day.
Ah, quinoa. This healthy, rich-tasting whole grain/seed has so many nutritional riches that it puts refined grains like white rice to shame. Tofu is the perfect sidekick because it’s both waistline-friendly (per bite, tofu tends to have about one-third the calories of meat and poultry) and heart-friendly (tofu has no artery-damaging saturated fat or cholesterol).
Consume more vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein. Shape your meals so they contain one protein source, one low fat source and one low carb vegetable source. Your carb intake should be in the recommended range of 20-50 grams per day. Don't feel that you must restrict yourself to a small number of foods. You can enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods that provide a large array of nutrients.
Eat smaller portions to help you cut back on calories. You don’t need to give up your favorite foods to lose weight. Similarly, choosing healthier dishes doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. Instead, portion out your meals using measuring cups or special spoons that measure out servings. Alternatively, make things easy by eating off smaller plates or bowls, which trick your eye into thinking your servings are bigger.
Those trans fats on your menu are hiding out in plain sight and sabotaging your lean belly plans every time you eat them. If a food product says it contains partially hydrogenated oils, you're eating trans fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity with every bite. In fact, research conducted at Wake Forest University reveals that monkeys whose diets contained eight percent trans fat upped their body fat by 7.2 percent over a six-year study, while those who ate monounsaturated fat gained just a fraction of that amount. Instead of letting harmful trans fat take up space on your menu, fill up with these healthy fats.
To stay motivated and deal with cravings, Juge has a couple of great recommendations. First, schedule a cheat meal on every seventh day. "Many of my clients have their cheat meal on Sunday, so then they're ready for Monday and the week to come," he says. If you feel deprived during the week, concentrate on the cheat meal to come, knowing you can eat absolutely anything you want to—pizza, lasagna, doughnuts, beer, chips, you name it. Remember, though, it's just one cheat meal, not an entire day of cheating. Afterward, get right back on the wagon with your next scheduled meal.