If your fitness goals include a flatter belly and stronger core, you're going to need a solid plan, expert guidance, and a little outside motivation. Our 30 Days to a Flat Belly plan has all three! This comprehensive workout plan will give you results you want without a pricey gym membership; you can do these workouts anywhere — and they're all 30 minutes or less.
Losing fat means something different to everyone. Some are just trying to lose a few pounds, some want to get a six pack, and some want to get absolutely shredded. The goals may be different but the principles that will achieve these results remain the same. Follow this guide and your future will be filled with smaller belts, better abs, and many more excuses to take your shirt off in public.
Weight loss isn’t a linear event over time. When you cut calories, you may drop weight for the first few weeks, for example, and then something changes. You eat the same number of calories but you lose less weight or no weight at all. That’s because when you lose weight you’re losing water and lean tissue as well as fat, your metabolism slows, and your body changes in other ways. So, in order to continue dropping weight each week, you need to continue cutting calories.
While that can certainly be a worthwhile endeavor, what they usually really mean to say is, “I want to lose fat.” Though most people use the terms weight loss and fat loss interchangeably, they are not in fact the same, and require different methods to achieve each goal. Here, we explain why fat loss — not weight loss — should be your primary focus, and why the typical methods used for weight loss may not always work for fat loss efforts.
On January 1st of this year I weighed in at 244.5lbs and knew something had to change. My husband and I moved to a mostly paleo lifestyle and I quickly lost 40lbs. By the time summer hit I was bored and cheating way too much and had even put back on some weight. At that time my sister was doing the FWTFL and had phenomenal success. I decided to join her for the August round and I started the program weighing in at 212lbs. Once I got the hang of things I fell in love with the program. Hitting my macros daily was a fun challenge for me and I loved the variety of workouts and they way they built up over time. I noticed results almost immediately, especially in the stomach area. I only missed 1 workout during the whole program and grew to love my sweat sessions each day! I weighed in today at 194.5lbs. That's 17.5lbs of fat gone. My measurements show a 17" loss. It's just mind-blowing. I'm 10lbs under my lowest weight since having kids and I haven't felt this good in years. I am so thankful for this program and for what it has taught me about how to fuel my body properly and how to push it beyond its limits. The accountability groups kept me motivated and challenged and I can't wait to start round 2 and see even more results as I stay committed to this program!
There's no way around the fact that, when it comes to burning more fat, you have to work at it. There is no magic exercise, workout, or pill that will do the job for you. The good news is that it doesn't take much activity to push the body into that fat burning mode. Try incorporating some type of activity every day, even if it's just a quick walk, and build on that over time as it becomes more of a routine. Do that and you're on the way to burning more fat.
Protein. Deciding how much protein to eat at each meal is simple. Take the total protein you are supposed to consume during the day and divide it evenly among the essential eating times. Let’s say, for example, you are supposed to be eating 200 grams of protein per day. Since there 5 essential eating times you just need to divide 200 by 5. This means that you will need to take in 40 grams of protein at each meal.
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids—whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it's not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you're stressed, though that's part of it. It's also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
Losing fat without also losing muscle is a bit more complicated than simply losing weight. Fat loss programs involve paying more attention to the types of foods you eat, rather than just focusing on reducing calories. They also includes different kinds of exercises that burn fat and preserve muscle at the same time, like weight-lifting and strength-training moves. This can sometimes lead to higher numbers on the scale, but the end result will be a smaller, more toned shape.
I'd like to think I'm pretty athletic and on the higher end of competitive, rounding out my high school and college days on swim team and playing soccer my freshman year of college - continuing as I got older I was a gym regular for at least the last 10 years, if not more, mixing in countless rec soccer leagues, kickball, and flag football teams as a boost to what I considered my "fitness routine". 5 years ago I got the crazy idea to start triathlons and quickly immersed myself in the sport - Lee and I had started dating and I hated to run and didn't own a bike but loved to swim! Lee trained me for my first 5K and after I bought a bike it was on to sprints, olympics and 2 Half Ironmans. In between all the crazy races I dragged him to (Minnesota, Miami, all over NC) we completed 2 half marathons together. To say he is a good sport ant very supportive is an understatement.
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
Continuing weight loss may deteriorate into wasting, a vaguely defined condition called cachexia. Cachexia differs from starvation in part because it involves a systemic inflammatory response. It is associated with poorer outcomes. In the advanced stages of progressive disease, metabolism can change so that they lose weight even when they are getting what is normally regarded as adequate nutrition and the body cannot compensate. This leads to a condition called anorexia cachexia syndrome (ACS) and additional nutrition or supplementation is unlikely to help. Symptoms of weight loss from ACS include severe weight loss from muscle rather than body fat, loss of appetite and feeling full after eating small amounts, nausea, anemia, weakness and fatigue.
A study in the April 1999 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition proved the calorie-burning benefits of muscle. The study put two groups of obese individuals on a very low-calorie diet. One group did only aerobic exercises four times per week while the other group did only resistance exercises three times per week. After 12 weeks, the aerobics group lost more weight than the resistance group. However, in the aerobics group almost one third of the weight lost was muscle. The resistance group lost only fat.
"Protein is great for fat loss. It helps build and preserve lean muscle tissue and can increase the amount of calories you burn. It’s also a great source of energy that helps you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less tempted to snack. Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, eggs, milk and chickpeas. And if you’re finding it difficult to avoid snacks that are high in carbohydrates, try substituting them for protein shakes or bars. Remember also to opt for the lean sources of protein because some sources can be high in saturated fat."
6. Fast once a week: While regularly underfeeding your body completely messes with your hormone balance, there’s sufficient research to suggest that intermittent fasting (IF)—or going without any food for set intervals—can actually help your insulin sensitivity and burn more fat. Researchers at LSU, for example, found that when people fasted all day, every other day, their fat oxidation increased and they actually lost 4 percent of their body fat in just 22 days. There are a lot of ways to go about IF, from fasting for 12 to 16 hours every day, to going 24 hours once a week. (Learn more about it here.)
Intermittent fasting—limiting your eating hours to just eight, say between 10:30 and 6:30—has gained popularity as a way to shake up your metabolism, and it just might work. “There is a lot more research that needs to be done but it does seem to benefit some people, particularly men,” says Angel Planells, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based in Seattle. Another approach is to fast—or eat next to no calories (500-600 calories total)—two non-consecutive days a week. (You can eat normally the other five days.) The tactic seems to increase fat burning. “When your body isn’t getting fuel, it will start burning fat,” Planells says. Read about this woman’s experience with intermittent fasting.
3. Stand up more: By now, we all know sitting for too long increases your risk for most diseases, including obesity. But it also shuts down your body’s ability to metabolize fat. According to a study from Missouri University, certain enzymes in the blood vessels of muscles that are responsible for burning fat are “shut off” if you sit still for too long. The good news? The researchers say standing and moving just lightly will re-engage the enzymes.
Seedman recommends eating at least 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and scoring it from quality sources like lean meats, eggs, fish, and protein powders. And when in doubt, eat more protein. “Of all the macronutrients to overdo it on, protein is it because excessive amounts are more difficult for your body to turn into fat compared to carbs or fat,” he adds.