5 Simple Ways to Lose Belly Fat, Based on Science
Overweight does not necessarily equal unhealthy.
1. Don't eat sugar and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks.
2. Eating more protein is a great long-term strategy to reduce belly fat.
3. Cut carbs from your diet.
4. Eat foods rich in fiber, especially viscous fiber.
5. Exercise is very effective at reducing belly fat.
There are actually plenty of overweight people who are in excellent health
(1). Conversely, many normal weight people have the metabolic problems associated with obesity
(2). That's because the fat under the skin is actually not that big of a problem (at least not from a health standpoint, it's more of a cosmetic problem).
It's the fat in the abdominal cavity, the belly fat, that causes the biggest issues
(3). If you have a lot of excess fat around your waistline, even if you're not very heavy, then you should take some steps to get rid of it.
Belly fat is usually estimated by measuring the circumference around your waist. This can easily be done at home with a simple tape measure.
Anything above 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women, is known as abdominal obesity.
There are actually a few proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.
Here are 6 evidence-based ways to lose belly fat.
1. Don't eat sugar and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks
Added sugar is very unhealthy.
Studies show that it has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health
(4). Sugar is half glucose, half fructose, and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount
(5). When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose, and is forced to turn it all into fat
(6). Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly
(7). Some believe that this is the primary mechanism behind sugar's harmful effects on health. It increases belly fat and liver fat, which leads to insulin resistance and a host of metabolic problems
(8). Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don't get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories (9, 10).
Studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children, per each daily serving
(11). Make a decision to minimize the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks.
This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and various high-sugar sports drinks.
Keep in mind that none of this applies to whole fruit, which are extremely healthy and have plenty of fiber that mitigates the negative effects of fructose.
The amount of fructose you get from fruit is negligible compared to what you get from a diet high in refined sugar.
If you want to cut back on refined sugar, then you must start reading labels. Even foods marketed as health foods can contain huge amounts of sugar.
Excess sugar consumption may be the primary driver of belly fat accumulation, especially sugary beverages like soft drinks.
2. Eating more protein is a great long-term strategy to reduce belly fat
Protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to losing weight
(12). It has been shown to reduce cravings by 60%, boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and help you eat up to 441 fewer calories per day (13, 14, 15, 16).
If weight loss is your goal, then adding protein is perhaps the single most effective change you can do to your diet.
Not only will it help you lose, it can also help you avoid re-gaining weight if you ever decide to abandon your weight loss efforts (17, 18).
There is also some evidence that protein is particularly effective against belly fat.
One study showed that the amount and quality of protein consumed was inversely related to fat in the belly. That is, people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat (19).
Another study in Denmark showed that protein was linked to significantly reduced risk of belly fat gain over a period of 5 years (20).
This study also showed that refined carbs and oils were linked to increased amounts of belly fat, but fruits and vegetables linked to reduced amounts.
Many of the studies showing protein to be effective had protein at 25-30% of calories. That's what you should aim for.
So make an effort to increase your intake of high-protein foods such as whole eggs, fish, seafood, legumes, nuts, meat, dairy products and some whole grains. These are the best protein sources in the diet.
If you struggle with getting enough protein in your diet, then a quality protein supplement (like whey protein) is a healthy and convenient way to boost your total intake.
If you're a vegetarian or vegan, then check out this article on how to increase your protein intake.
Bonus tip: Consider cooking your foods in coconut oil. Some studies have shown that 30 mL (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil per day reduces belly fat slightly (21, 22).
Eating enough protein is a very effective way to lose weight. Some studies suggest that protein is particularly effective against belly fat accumulation.
3. Cut carbs from your diet
Carb restriction is a very effective way to lose fat.
This is supported by numerous studies. When people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight (23).
Over 20 randomized controlled trials have now shown that low-carb diets lead to 2-3 times more weight loss than low-fat diets (24, 25, 26).
This is true even when the low-carb groups are allowed to eat as much as they want, while the low-fat groups are calorie restricted and hungry.
Low-carb diets also lead to quick reductions in water weight, which gives people near instant results. A major difference on the scale is often seen within a few days.
There are also studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, showing that low-carb diets specifically target the fat in the belly, and around the organs and liver (27, 28).
What this means is that a particularly high proportion of the fat lost on a low-carb diet is the dangerous and disease promoting abdominal fat.
Just avoiding the refined carbs (white breads, pastas, etc) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein high.
However, if you need to lose weight fast, then consider dropping your carbs down to 50 grams per day. This will put your body into ketosis, killing your appetite and making your body start burning primarily fats for fuel.
Of course, low-carb diets have many other health benefits besides just weight loss. They can have life-saving effects in type 2 diabetics, for example (29, 30).
Studies have shown that low-carb diets are particularly effective at getting rid of the fat in the belly area, around the organs and in the liver.
4. Eat foods rich in fiber, especially viscous fiber
Dietary fiber is mostly indigestible plant matter.
It is often claimed that eating plenty of fiber can help with weight loss.
This is true, but it's important to keep in mind that not all fiber is created equal.
It seems to be mostly the soluble and viscous fibers that have an effect on your weight.
These are fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that “sits” in the gut (31).
This gel can dramatically slow the movement of food through your stomach and small bowel, and slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The end result is a prolonged feeling of fullness and reduced appetite (32).
One review study found that an additional 14 grams of fiber per day were linked to a 10% decrease in calorie intake and weight loss of 2 kg (4.5 lbs) over 4 months (33).
In one 5-year study, eating 10 grams of soluble fiber per day was linked to a 3.7% reduction in the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity, but it had no effect on the amount of fat under the skin (34).
What this implies, is that soluble fiber may be particularly effective at reducing the harmful belly fat.
The best way to get more fiber is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables and fruit. Legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like oats.
Then you could also try taking a fiber supplement like glucomannan. This is one of the most viscous dietary fibers in existence, and has been shown to cause weight loss in many studies (35, 36).
There is some evidence that soluble dietary fiber may lead to reduced amounts of belly fat, which should cause major improvements in metabolic health.
5. Exercise is very effective at reducing belly fat
Exercise is important for various reasons.
It is among the best things you can do if you want to live a long, healthy life and avoid disease.
Getting into all of the amazing health benefits of exercise is beyond the scope of this article, but exercise does appear to be effective at reducing belly fat.
However, keep in mind that I'm not talking about abdominal exercises here. Spot reduction (losing fat in one spot) is not possible, and doing endless amounts of crunches will not make you lose fat from the belly.
In one study, 6 weeks of training just the abdominal muscles had no measurable effect on waist circumference or the amount of fat in the abdominal cavity (37).
That being said, other types of exercise can be very effective.
Aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, etc) has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies (38, 39).
Another study found that exercise completely prevented people from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss, implying that exercise is particularly important during weight maintenance (40).
Exercise also leads to reduced inflammation, blood sugar levels and all the other metabolic abnormalities that are associated with central obesity (41).
Exercise can be very effective if you are trying to lose belly fat. Exercise also has a number of other health benefits.
6. Track your foods and figure out exactly what and how much you are eating
What you eat is important. Pretty much everyone knows this.
However, surprisingly, most people actually don't have a clue what they are really eating.
People think they're eating “high protein,” “low-carb” or whatever, but tend to drastically over- or underestimate.
I think that for anyone who truly wants to optimize their diet, tracking things for a while is absolutely essential.
It doesn't mean you need to weigh and measure everything for the rest of your life, but doing it every now and then for a few days in a row can help you realize where you need to make changes.
If you want to boost your protein intake to 25-30% of calories, as recommended above, just eating more protein rich foods won't cut it. You need to actually measure and fine tune in order to reach that goal.
Check out these articles here for a calorie calculator and a list of free online tools and apps to track what you are eating.
I personally do this every few months. I weigh and measure everything I eat to see what my current diet is looking like.
Then I know exactly where to make adjustments in order to get closer to my goals.
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How to Lose Belly Fat, According to a Victoria’s Secret Model Trainer
BY SHARON FEIEREISEN
Looking to slim your waistline? Find out the best exercises to lose belly fat, thanks to top tips from one of the best trainers in the biz.
“Get down on all fours resting your forearms and knees on the floor,” says Dede Lagree, owner and head trainer at Lagree Fitness Studio who has worked with Ashley Graham, Viola Davis, Elsa Hosk, and Bella Thorne. “Then step your feet back to a plank position. Contract abs to keep your body in a straight line and spine parallel to the floor. Abs should be pulling toward the ceiling. The key is to hold it for as long as you can.” Lagree recommends starting out by holding for 20 seconds and working your way up to a minute, or longer. Come down to starting position, rest and repeat three times. Want to kick it up a notch? Here's a look at some plank upgrades.
13 Easy Ways to Lose Water Weight (Fast and Safely)
The human body contains around 60% water, which plays a key role in all aspects of life (1).
However, excess water retention (edema) is a common side effect of chronic inflammation (2).
Also known as fluid retention, edema can be caused by food intolerances, poor diet, toxin exposure and diseases like kidney failure.
Women may also experience water retention during the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.
For most people, excess water weight is not a serious health issue. However, it can still negatively impact your appearance and quality of life.
Here are 13 ways to reduce water weight fast and safely.
1. Exercise on a Regular Basis
Exercise may be one of the best ways to reduce water weight in the short-term. Any form of it increases sweat, which means you will lose water.
The average fluid loss during 1 hour of exercise is anywhere between 16–64 oz (0.5–2 liters) per hour, depending on factors such as heat and clothing (3, 4, 5).
During exercise, your body also shifts a lot of water into your muscles.
This can help reduce water outside of the cell and decrease the “soft” look people report from excessive water retention (6).
However, you still need to drink plenty of water during your training session.
Another good option to increase sweat and water loss is the sauna, which you could add in after your gym session.
Regular exercise can help you maintain a natural balance of body fluids and sweat out excess stored water.
2. Sleep More
Research on sleep highlights that it's just as important as diet and exercise (7, 8, 9).
Sleep may also affect the sympathetic renal nerves in the kidneys, which regulate sodium and water balance (10).
One study found that when you sleep, your body acts like a plumbing system and flushes “toxins” out of the brain (11).
Adequate sleep may also help your body control hydration levels and minimize water retention.
Aim to get a healthy amount of sleep per night, which for most individuals will be around 7–9 hours.
A good night's sleep may help your body manage its fluid and sodium balance and lead to reduced water weight in the long-term.
3. Stress Less
Long-term stress can increase the hormone cortisol, which directly influences fluid retention and water weight (12).
This may occur because stress and cortisol increase a hormone that controls water balance in the body, known as the antidiuretic hormone or ADH (13).
ADH works by sending signals to the kidneys, telling them how much water to pump back into the body (12).
If you control your stress levels, you will maintain a normal level of ADH and cortisol, which is important for fluid balance and long-term health and disease risk (5, 13).
Stress increases cortisol and antidiuretic hormone, which directly affect your body's water balance.
4. Take Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals with an electric charge, such as magnesium and potassium. They play important roles in your body, including regulating water balance (14).
When electrolyte levels become too low or too high, they can cause shifts in fluid balance. This may lead to increased water weight (14).
You should tailor your electrolyte intake to your water intake. If you drink large amounts of water, you may need more electrolytes (15).
If you exercise daily or live in a humid or hot environment, you may need additional electrolytes to replace those lost with sweat (16).
In contrast, large amounts of electrolytes from supplements or salty foods, coupled with a low water intake, can have the opposite effect and increase water weight.
Electrolytes control water balance and cell hydration. Electrolyte supplements can be beneficial if you drink a lot of water, exercise a lot, live in a hot climate or do not eat salty foods.
5. Manage Salt Intake
Sodium, which you obtain daily from salt, is one of the most common electrolytes in the human body.
It plays a major role in hydration levels. If levels are too low or too high, it will lead to imbalances within the body and therefore fluid retention.
A high salt intake, usually due to a diet with lots of processed foods, may increase water retention. This is particularly true if coupled with low water intake and no exercise (17, 18, 19, 20).
However, this does seem to depend on the individual's current daily sodium intake and blood levels.
One study tested this and found that you may only store excess water if you drastically increase or change your habitual daily intake (21).
Salt or sodium plays a key role in fluid balance. Try to avoid extreme changes, such as excessive salt intake or the elimination of salt.
6. Take a Magnesium Supplement
Magnesium is another key electrolyte and mineral. It has recently become a very popular supplement for health and sports performance.
Research regarding magnesium has been extensive and shows that it has over 600 roles within the human body (22).
A lot of the evidence is in females, showing that magnesium can reduce water weight and premenstrual symptoms (PMS) (23, 24).
These changes may occur because magnesium plays an integrative role with other electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.
Together, they help control your body's water balance.
Magnesium intake should be optimized, as it plays a key role in hydration levels and body water content.
7. Take a Dandelion Supplement
The dandelion herb, Taraxacum officinale, is used in alternative medicine to treat water retention (25).
In recent years, it has also become popular among bodybuilders and athletes who need to drop water for aesthetic purposes or to meet a weight category.
Dandelion supplements may help you lose water weight by signaling the kidneys to expel more urine and additional salt or sodium.
In human studies, dandelion intake increases the frequency of urination over a 5-hour period (26).
However, even though it's already in popular use, more research is definitely required on dandelion supplements.
Dandelion is a popular herb often used by bodybuilders and athletes who need to lose water weight.
8. Drink More Water
Interestingly, being well-hydrated can actually reduce water retention (27).
Your body is always trying to achieve a healthy balance, so if you are constantly dehydrated your body tends to retain more water in an attempt to prevent water levels from becoming too low.
Achieving an optimal daily water intake can also be important for liver and kidney health, which may reduce water retention in the long-term (28, 29).
The benefits of drinking more water don't stop there. Other research shows that it's also important for health, fat loss, brain function and more (30, 31, 32, 33, 34).
As always, achieving a balance is optimal. If you drink excessive amounts of fluid you may actually increase your water weight.
Simply drink when you're thirsty and stop when you feel well-hydrated. You should also drink slightly more in hot environments or when exercising.
You can also monitor your urine color to assess hydration. It should be light yellow or fairly clear, which is a good indicator that you are well-hydrated.
Dehydration or over-hydration can lead to water retention. Make sure to drink balanced amounts of water each day.
9. Focus on These Foods
There are several foods that you may wish to include in your diet to combat water retention.
Potassium-rich foods are often recommended, as potassium can help balance sodium levels and increase urine production, helping you drop excess water (35).
Dark green leafy vegetables, beans, bananas, avocados, tomatoes and yogurt or other dairy products are all healthy and potassium-rich.
Magnesium supplements or magnesium-rich foods are also recommended. These include dark chocolate, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
The following foods and herbs are often recommended to drop water weight in alternative medicine, with some clinical evidence supporting their use:
Corn silk (36).
Garlic (40, 41).
Along with trying these foods, you may also wish to limit or temporarily remove foods that cause bloating or any intolerances.
These include highly processed foods, foods with lots of fiber and sometimes beans and dairy. You can also try sticking to low-FODMAP foods for a while to see if that helps.
Certain foods and herbs can act as diuretics and reduce water retention. Combine them with easily digestible foods that don't cause bloating or intolerances.
10. Cut Carbs
Cutting carbs is a common strategy to quickly drop excess water. Carbs are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, but glycogen also pulls water inside along with it.
For every gram of glycogen you store, 3–4 grams (0.11–0.14 oz) of water may be stored with it. This explains why people experience immediate weight loss when switching to a low-carb diet, which reduces glycogen stores.
Carbs also lead to a rise in the hormone insulin, which can cause an increase in sodium retention and re-absorption of water in the kidneys (44, 45).
Low-carb diets lead to a drop in insulin levels, which then leads to a loss of sodium and water from the kidneys.
In contrast, if you are on a low-carb diet or dieting in general, then a high-carb meal may pull excess body fluid into your muscles and increase water weight.
It may also provide a visual difference, increasing water in the muscles but helping you drop excess water under the skin (46).
Try altering your carb intake and see what works best for you.
A low-carb diet can cause a rapid decrease in water weight because of reduced glycogen stores and lower insulin levels.
11. Take Caffeine Supplements or Drink Tea and Coffee
Tea and coffee are well-known diuretics that are primarily effective due to their high caffeine content.
Caffeine has been shown to increase short-term urine output and decrease water weight slightly (47, 48).
In one study, a glass of water with or without caffeine was provided to participants in doses of 2 mg/lb (4.5 mg/kg) of body weight.
When combining caffeine with water, participants' urine volume significantly increased (49).
That being said, even though caffeine has a mild diuretic effect, it does not lead to dehydration in habitual consumers.
Moderate amounts of caffeine from coffee, tea or caffeine supplements may help you drop excess water.
12. Change Your Habits
One of the best changes you can make is to reduce your intake of processed foods and excessive salt consumption.
Also, avoid sitting all day or for long periods, which can reduce your blood circulation. Physical activity can improve circulation and help you sweat out excess water (50).
Certain medications may also cause water retention, so check with your doctor or medical practitioner if you take medication daily and hold onto too much water (50).
Paying attention to the foods you eat, and making sure they're not causing you digestive issues or inflammation, is also advised (50).
Finally, over or under consumption of water, alcohol, minerals, caffeine and salt can all cause water retention. Find a healthy, normal balance.
Check your diet for excessive processed foods, salt, caffeine and alcohol consumption.
13. Consider Prescription Water Pills
Prescription diuretics and water pills are sometimes prescribed to treat excess water retention (51).
They work by activating your kidneys to flush out excess water and salt through urine.
These diuretic pills are often prescribed to those with heart or lung issues and to help with blood pressure, prevent fluid buildup and reduce swelling.
It's important to note the difference between prescription diuretics and over-the-counter or online water pills.
Prescription pills have been clinically tested for long-term safety, whereas over-the-counter pills may lack clinical research and have not always been tested for safety.
Either type may help combat medically diagnosed edema or excess water weight.
Speak to your doctor before trying these.
When looking into diuretic medication or pills, consult with a medical practitioner and take prescribed drugs under supervision.
Take Home Message
If the problem persists, seems severe or increases suddenly, then it is always best to seek medical attention.
In some cases, excess water retention can be caused by a serious medical condition.
At the end of the day, the best way to combat excess water weight is to identify and treat the cause.
This may be excess salt intake, lack of electrolytes, inactivity, excess stress or the regular consumption of processed and inflammatory foods.
Some of these are also among the main things associated with poor health and disease, which may be even bigger reasons to avoid them.
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The Fast Food Diet
Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, MD, believes you can lose weight without giving up the drive-thru or doing much cooking.
The catch? The Fast Food Dietteaches you to choose menu items carefully and stick with the 80/20 rule: If you eat right 80% of the time, it’s OK to splurge the other 20% of the time.
What You Can Eat and What You Can't
You’ll eat three meals and two snacks a day, all purchased from various fast-food and chain restaurants or convenience stores.
When The Fast Food Diet book was published in 2006, choices included Burger King French Toast Sticks, Panda Express Beef and Broccoli, McDonald’s Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, and even a Double Chocolate Chip Cookie from Subway. Sinatra maintains a website that may provide more information about better fast-food choices.
Fried foods are not part of the plan, so you’ll have to say goodbye to the fries. Sodas sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup are also off-limits.
But you may not miss them. Sinatra offers suggestions for better substitutions for some of your favorites and easy tips for cutting fat and calories while still enjoying a diet mainly from fast food restaurants.
Alcohol is allowed in moderation. You can enjoy an occasional glass of wine or a cocktail and sip it slowly, savoring it, so you don’t want more.
Level of Effort: Low
Limitations: Cheeseburgers? Allowed. Pizza? Allowed. Croissant breakfast sandwich? Yes. The plan is less about what’s off-limits and more about making smart swaps that shave fat and calories, while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite convenience foods.
Cooking and shopping: If cooking isn’t your thing, it’s not required on this plan. You can eat out or cook at home as much as you want, but you must stick to the calorie and menu suggestions in the diet.
Packaged foods or meals: No.
In-person meetings: No.
Exercise: Not required. Sinatra touts walking as the ideal exercise, but doesn’t insist on it as part of the 6-week diet plan.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
It will be challenging, but not impossible, for vegetarians to find enough fast-food options to do well on the diet. Those following low-fat, low-salt, vegan, or gluten-free diets should look for another diet plan.
What Else You Should Know
Cost: If you already eat out for most meals, you’ll probably spend the same amount.
Support: You do this diet on your own.
What Maryann Jacobsen, RD, Says:
Does It Work?
Although eating fast food is linked to higher weights, healthier fast-food choices can have a different result. There is no specific data on whether a fast food diet will result in weight loss or improved health, but choosing items lower in calories and higher in nutrition is a good place to start — especially for busy people who don't like to cook.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
Anyone closely watching their diet for health reasons should be wary. Check with your doctor first.
Even healthy fast food options tend to be high in sodium, so someone with heart disease or high blood pressure would need to be careful.
In general, people with health conditions can use this book as a guide to making healthier choices while dining out — but they'd be better off eating most of their food at home.
Keep in mind that the book was published in 2006, so much of the fast food meal options and nutrition may be outdated.
The Final Word
The strength of this diet is it's easy to do and won't take much work. The downside is people still have to rely on outside sources to feed themselves instead of learning how to prepare food at home.
This diet might work for someone who eats fast food and wants to make better choices when they're ordering. Basically, it's stepping stone to a healthier diet. This plan may not work for someone looking for more ways to prepare and eat nutritious whole foods at home.
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