Vary your daily calories while reducing your overall average. Your body may adjust to a lower but steady calorie intake, meaning it won’t draw from your stored fat. To keep your body guessing and your metabolism up, try switching between higher and lower daily calorie intakes. This might help avoid that dreaded weight-loss plateau and improve your willpower.
Getting rid of your belly bulge is important for more than just vanity's sake. Excess abdominal fat—particularly visceral fat, the kind that surrounds your organs and puffs your stomach into a "beer gut"—is a predictor of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and some cancers. If diet and exercise haven't done much to reduce your pooch, then your hormones, your age, and other genetic factors may be the reason why. Read on for 11 possible reasons why your belly fat won't budge.
Obviously, it’s still possible to lose weight on any diet – just eat fewer calories than you burn, right? The problem with this simplistic advice is that it ignores the elephant in the room: Hunger. Most people don’t like to “just eat less”, i.e. being hungry forever. That’s dieting for masochists. Sooner or later, a normal person will give up and eat, hence the prevalence of “yo-yo dieting”.
REALITY: Fats and carbs both play a role in fat loss. Fats are responsible for hormone production, joint lubrication, and many other important health and muscle-building factors. Dropping your fats too low could compromise your health and your goals. Everyone's body and metabolism is different, so it's crucial to know how many grams of healthy fat you need to eat for a balanced nutrition regimen.
The easiest way to cut calories? Eliminate excess dietary fat—meaning no butter, oils, or salad dressings (low-fat or fat-free dressings are OK); remove the skin from chicken; substitute egg whites for most of your whole eggs; avoid whole-milk dairy products; and ditch marbled red meats such as rib-eye for lean cuts such as flank. Keep some healthy fats in your diet, such as salmon, mixed nuts, peanut butter, and avocados.
If you ate nothing but Twinkies or apples for a few months, you'd probably lose weight. You'd also lose muscle mass and gym performance—and threaten your overall health. Your goal is to build a healthy diet that gives you the right amount of macros (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) that will sustain you over that time. Let's look at these macros one at a time.
Luckily, exercise can help spur things along when it comes to that pesky stomach fat. “Visceral fat responds well when… [you] start exercising and watching your calories and what you eat,” Harris-Pincus says. And while endless crunches aren’t your ticket to a flat stomach, it is still important to train your ab muscles. “Everything radiates from the center of your body – your balance, your posture, your functional movement,” says Joe Ardito, founder of Fit Crush NYC. “You can perform better when you have a strong core.”
When Johns Hopkins researchers compared the effects on the heart of losing weight through a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat diet for six months—each containing the same amount of calories—those on a low-carb diet lost an average of 10 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet—28.9 pounds versus 18.7 pounds. An extra benefit of the low-carb diet is that it produced a higher quality of weight loss, Stewart says. With weight loss, fat is reduced, but there is also often a loss of lean tissue (muscle), which is not desirable. On both diets, there was a loss of about 2 to 3 pounds of good lean tissue along with the fat, which means that the fat loss percentage was much higher on the low-carb diet.
While the Duke study found no added benefit to resistance training (aka weight or strength training) when it comes to belly fat, a 2014 study from a Harvard University team found otherwise. Twenty minutes of weights a day was linked to less of an increase in belly fat (particularly for older men). “Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass," said the paper’s lead author Rania Mekary.
You know that protein can keep you full longer and burn more calories during digestion. Choose your protein carefully. Dark meat tends to be high in fat, which could cancel out some of the benefits. Skinless chicken breast is a great choice. And some cuts of beef can make the grade. Flank steak, eye of round, and top sirloin are extra-lean with less than 4 grams of saturated fat per serving. Stick with a 3- to 4-ounce portion.
Do this: To ensure that your body is in optimal fat-burning mode, do 30-60 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning before breakfast 4-6 days per week. Feel free, however, to drink your morning coffee (without cream or sugar) and take 6-10g of mixed amino acids or a small amount of whey protein powder mixed in water beforehand. The caffeine will help you burn more fat, as will the amino acids (whether from a supplement or whey protein), as research from Kanazawa University in Japan has found. The aminos will also help prevent muscle breakdown during cardio.
The Rapid Fat Loss Protocol combines a modified cyclical ketogenic diet with mTOR stimulation, mitochondrial optimization, and ongoing toxin binding. The result is rapid fat loss with fewer – or no (we think) – metabolic problems associated with VLCD (very low-calorie diets). It will combine a 6-day ketogenic phase using Bulletproof Coffee, followed by a 1-day high carb re-feeding.
Try interval training. This type of exercise routine can help you break up your workout without actually stopping your workout session. Interval training involves you going at an easy pace for a duration of time, and then going all out. You can also adjust the duration and pauses between the cycling back and forth. This can burn more calories and potentially increase your metabolism.
Other diabetes medications. Insulin-releasing tablets (e.g. sulphonylureas) often lead to weight gain. These include: Minodiab, Euglucon, Daonil, and Glibenclamide. Tablets like Avandia, Actos, Starlix and NovoNorm also encourage weight gain. But not Metformin. The newer drugs Victoza and Byetta (injectable) often lead to weight loss, but possible long-term side effects are still unknown. More on diabetes
The least intrusive weight loss methods, and those most often recommended, are adjustments to eating patterns and increased physical activity, generally in the form of exercise. The World Health Organization recommended that people combine a reduction of processed foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt and caloric content of the diet with an increase in physical activity.
Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack. Adding a source of lean or low-fat protein to each meal and snack will help keep you feeling full longer so you're less likely to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portion of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to avoid overindulging.
Eating sugary foods might be satisfying in the moment, but they can increase your cravings for more sugary foods in the future — and that only leads to trouble. "Many foods high in added sugar are also higher in calories and fill you up less than lower-calorie, still-sweet alternatives like fruit," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. But there are still ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without ODing on sugar. "When you're baking, cut out some of the sugar in recipes by adding in vanilla extract or cinnamon, blend unsweetened cocoa powder into a smoothie instead of honey, top your French toast with unsweetened frozen fruit instead of syrup, and nosh on a slab of watermelon instead of cookies."
The pre-training meal may just be the most important meal of the day. This is the meal that will fuel your workout. For this meal it is important to get protein and carbs which will make their way into the blood stream around the time your training session is getting underway. The glucose in the bloodstream from the carbs will be used for energy, while the amino acids from the protein will spare stored amino acids from being catabolized during training.
Nuts, the second food to watch, contain a fair amount of carbohydrate, and it’s very easy to unwittingly scarf down large quantities. Cashew nuts are among the worst carb-wise – you’ll find that they contain around 20% carbohydrate by weight. For someone following a strict keto diet with a 20 grams of carbs per day allowance, this means that consuming 100 grams (which happens in a flash!) will have filled their daily quota. Peanuts tend to be around 10-15% carbohydrate – not putting them in the clear either.
Unfortunately, some women are just more prone to carrying weight in their middle instead of their hips and thighs. Sometimes, it’s genetics—maybe your mother was more apple-shaped. Belly fat can also increase around menopause, or for women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Even certain lifestyle habits, from lack of sleep to stress, can make your belly grow. To lose belly fat, talking with a doctor about what other factors may be affecting your weight gain can be a good place to start. From there, you can craft a belly fat busting routine.
Water isn’t just a calorie-free beverage, it’s also essential to the process of metabolizing fat, known as hydrolysis, says Pence. So it’s important to drink enough fluids every day—and you’ll need even more if you’re overweight. A good rule of thumb is to drink a milliliter of water for every calorie you consume. Not into the metric system? If you’re following a 2000-calorie diet, that comes to 67 ounces or just over a half gallon of water.
You can get an estimate of how many calories you burn every day by using this calorie calculator. When you fill out the form, do your best to pick the level of activity that matches what you do on an average day. If you say you're more active than you really are, you'll end up with a lot more calories than your body needs, and you'll start gaining weight. For the moment, choose "maintenance" as your goal.
Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism so it's no accident that those who skip this meal are 41⁄2 times as likely to be obese. The heartier your first meal is, the better. In one study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, volunteers who got 22 to 55 percent of their total calories at breakfast gained only 1.7 pounds on average over 4 years. While those who got zero to 11 percent gained nearly 3 pounds.
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to researchers at Yale, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.
High blood sugar levels coupled with high blood ketones, on the other hand, will mean that you have a pathologically low level of insulin – something non-diabetics do not suffer from. This can lead to ketoacidosis – a potentially life-threatening condition. If this happens, you’ll need to inject more insulin; if you’re at all unsure of what to do, contact a medical professional. Coveting really high blood ketones for weight control is not worth the risk for type 1 diabetics.
So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy. This tends to cause you to want to consume fewer calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight. Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.
Give crosstraining a go. Whatever your workout is — whether it's a 15 minute walk with the dog or a 10K through the park — your body gets used to it. You can actually burn fewer calories when your body is familiar with the level and type of exertion it’s experiencing. So to keep your body a bit off guard, try crosstraining. Consider it a good excuse to pick up that hobby you've been eying.
Here's something else most people probably don't know: Fidgeting is good for you. It's considered a nonexercise physical activity, and it's an important way to burn energy. You get more health benefits if, in addition to exercising, you are a more fidgety, more active person the rest of the day. This means gesturing while you're talking, tapping your foot, just moving around.
Don’t buy your tickets to Bonnaroo just yet; the kind of acid that will help you slim down is the stuff right inside your cabinet. A 12-week study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry reveals that obese study subjects who made vinegar part of their diet dropped more belly fat than a control group, and other research suggests that acidic foods, like vinegar, can increase the human carbohydrate metabolism by as much as 40 percent.
Useful goals should be (1) specific; (2) attainable (doable); and (3) forgiving (less than perfect). "Exercise more" is a great goal, but it's not specific. "Walk 5 miles every day" is specific and measurable, but is it doable if you're just starting out? "Walk 30 minutes every day" is more attainable, but what happens if you're held up at work one day and there's a thunderstorm during your walking time another day? "Walk 30 minutes, 5 days each week" is specific, doable, and forgiving. In short, a great goal!
1. Boost your metabolism throughout the day: Your BMR regulates how many calories you burn at rest and the more you move, the higher your BMR, and the more you’ll burn when standing still. Small efforts like taking the stairs, walking to pick up lunch, even playing pool with the guys during happy hour can all jumpstart your metabolism. (Check out these 30 Easy Ways to Burn Fat in 30 Minutes Without the Gym.)