What is the best way to lose belly fat quickly? It’s a common question… and a valid one. Not just because a flat stomach is so much more appealing than carrying that spare tire around your waistline. Belly fat, or visceral fat, can also set you up for some serious health problems.
So, what is the best, most effective way to get rid of that belly pooch fast? Well, before you start doing thousands of crunches or go wasting your money on the newest ‘ab trainer’… there are some things you need to know about belly fat.
First of all, there really isn’t a specific diet or workout that specifically targets belly fat. Instead, to lose belly fat, you want to lose body fat in general. Maybe your overall body fat is 20% you want to get it down to 12%.
This is what you should be doing if you want to burn belly fat fast…
- 1 Why belly fat is so hard to get rid of
- 2 The Fastest Way To Lose Belly Fat: Focus on food
- 3 Exercise to burn belly fat fast
- 4 Reduce stress to reduce tummy fat
first of all…
Why belly fat is so hard to get rid of
Why is it so much harder to lose belly fat and other forms of stubborn fat?
Fat is stored in a special type of cell called white adipose tissue.
Burning fat is a two-step process:
The first step is breaking down the fat stored in your white adipose tissue, turning it into energy your body can use (glycerol and fatty acids) and releasing these into your blood. This process is known as lipolysis.
Lipolysis is triggered by chemicals called catecholamines. These chemicals attach to receptors on your fat cells and ‘unlock’ them, allowing them to release some of their stored fat.
The second step is actually using (burning) this released energy as fuel by different types of cells in your body. This process is called oxidation
Now here’s why stubborn fat is so… stubborn:
Your fat cells have two basic type of receptors for catecholamines to attach to; alpha-receptors and beta-receptors. Although the process is pretty complicated, it basically comes down to this:
Alpha-receptors hinder lipolysis, making it more difficult to release fat and use it for energy.
Beta-receptors accelerate lipolysis making it easier for catecholamines to unlock them and use their stored fat for energy.
In other words, fat cells with more alpha-receptors respond less favorably to catecholamines.
Your stubborn fat cells have more alpha than beta-receptors. This means it’s literally harder for your body to get them to release their fat to be burnt (oxidized) as energy.
Okay, now you know why belly fat is so stubborn, but how do you get rid of it as quickly as possible?
Ask 100 experts that question and you’ll likely get 100 different answers. However, there is one thing most experts agree on…
The Fastest Way To Lose Belly Fat: Focus on food
You might have heard the sayings ‘You can’t out-exercise a bad diet’ and ‘abs are made in the kitchen’. This is why…
Imagine you’ve just spent a gruesome 45 minutes in the gym, working yourself to the bone. You’ve been doing vigorous circuit training, HIIT, calisthenics, spinning, rowing or any other type of vigorous exercise.
45 minutes of high intensity exercise burns – at the most – about 500 calories. Sounds like a lot, right?
Well, let’s look at some ways you can get those calories back in a hurry…
You could eat, for instance:
- 1 piece of cherry pie (410 calories)
- 10 dried figs (475 calories)
- 1/2 cup of peanuts (420 calories)
- or 2 slices of cheese pizza (580 calories)
This would take you no longer than 10 minutes and it would probably feel a heck of a lot more rewarding than torturing yourself in the gym. Especially if you’re not a big fan of exercise in the first place.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, taking a good look at your diet is the best place to start if you want to get rid of belly fat fast.
To burn fat you need a calorie deficit. This means you should be burning more calories than you consume.
You need to burn about 3500 calories to lose a single pound of fat. The exact amount does depend on your body composition (fat vs muscle). When you lose weight, you are actually losing a combination of fat, lean tissue and water. However, 3500 is a good goal to shoot for.
This means that, if you want to burn 1 pound of fat per week, you should be consuming 500 calories less than you burn each and every day.
- Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics
- When it comes to weight loss, math can’t solve every problem
One switch can make a huge difference
Making just one single food switch can potentially make a huge difference in your daily calorie intake.
For example, say you have the habit of eating two handfulssof peanuts in the evenings. Even though peanuts are considered a reasonably healthy snack, just one handful of them contains about 170 calories… and if you have big hands probably a lot more.
This peanut habit would add a total of 2.380 calories to your total weekly calorie intake.
Considering the fact that the daily recommended calorie intake for the average female is about 2000 and for the average male is 2500…
You would be adding an extra day’s worth of calories every week!
A simple way to drastically reduce your daily calorie intake would be to switch to a different kind of snack. For example, switching from peanuts to carrots! You can eat carrots till you turn orange and still not consume the same amount of calories that are contained in a single handful of peanuts.
Find the culprits
So, the first thing to do if you want to lose belly fat fast is take an honest look at the foods you are putting into your mouth at the moment… and how much of them you are eating.
Is there something that stands out? Some high calorie snack or beverage you are consuming a lot of that can easily be replaced by a healthier, lower calorie alternative?
Beware of the fact that some foods labeled as ‘healthy’, ‘sugar free’ or ‘diet’ could actually be making you fat!
Remember that it’s a lot easier to reduce the amount of calories you are eating than it is to burn that same amount of calories in the gym.
Not sure what to replace your high calorie snacks with? Here are some simple food swaps that can boost your health, drastically reduce your calorie intake and help you lose fat faster:
Start reading food labels
If you want to reduce stomach fat fast (and boost your overal health at the same time), make it a habit to read the labels of all the packaged foods you buy.
Manufacturers often use misleading health claims when it comes to marketing their products. This is especially true when it comes to processed ‘health’ foods. Stamping the label ‘whole grain’ on your sugary breakfast cereal does not make it healthy!
Here’s how to check if a product is as good for you as it claims to be:
Ignore the labels on the front of the packaging
This is where you will usually find the health claims making you believe the product is healthier than it actually is. They are often misleading, and sometimes downright false.
Read the ingredients list
You can be pretty sure that the product is unhealthy if the first three ingredients include refined grains, some sort of sugar/high-fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils.
Also, if the ingredient list is more than 3 lines, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a highly processed product.
Further reading: How to read food labels
Read the nutrition facts
This is where you will find how many calories the product contains per serving size. Remember, to lose fat you need to consume less calories than you burn per day (calorie deficit). You might be surprised that some of the foods you are eating that are labeled as ‘healthy’ actually contain a cr#p load of calories.
Eat plenty of protein
You want to lose fat… not muscle. Protein is the building block which muscle is made from. This makes it the single most important nutrient to maintain lean muscle mass.
Here are some of the most important reasons why eating enough protein is essential if you want to lose fat and maintain a lean, strong and healthy body:
- A high-protein diet is more effective for building muscle.
- Protein preserves lean muscle while simultaneously restricting calories for faster fat loss.
- Eating plenty of protein increases satiety (fullness). This helps you avoid hunger pangs and food cravings.
- Research shows that a diet high in protein is more effective for reducing body fat (this includes abdominal fat in particular).
Research has shown that, ideally, you should be consuming between 0.8 – 1.3 grams of protein per pound of your current body weight every day.
Eat more soluble fiber
Try to eat more foods that are rich in soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps you feel full, naturally helping you to eat less. It does this by absorbing water and forming a gel. This helps slow down the food as it passes through your digestive system.
One study also suggest that soluble fiber may also aid your weight loss efforts by decreasing the amount of calories your body absorbs from foods.
Cut back on refined carbs
Refined or ‘simple’ carbohydrates digest quickly and their high glycemic index causes unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels. This in turn leads fluctuations in mood and energy and a build-up of fat… especially around your waistline.
Refined carbs include sugars and grains that have been stripped of all their bran, fiber, and nutrients. These include white bread, pasta, white flour, pizza dough, pastries, white rice, and many breakfast cereals.
Calories from fructose, like those found in sugary beverages (like soda, energy/sports drinks, fruit juice and coffee drinks) and processed foods (like doughnuts, cake, muffins, cereal, candy, and granola bars) are more likely to add weight around your abdomen.
Switch to complex carbs
Instead of filling up on refined carbs, choose foods that contain complex carbs instead. These take longer to digest, resulting in more stable blood sugar. This helps reduce fat accumulation, making it a lot easier to shed that stubborn belly fat.
Add some apple cider vinegar to your diet
Research suggests that drinking apple cider vinegar not only has some impressive health benefits but can also help you get rid of stubborn belly fat.
The acetic acid it contains has been shown to reduce abdominal fat storage.
In one 12-week study obese men who took 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per day lost half an inch from their waists.
After the study body weight, BMI, visceral fat area and waist circumference were significantly lower in the vinegar intake group than in the placebo group.
So, try starting your day with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar diluted in water.
Exercise to burn belly fat fast
So, now you know that the best way to reduce stomach fat fast is to focus on the foods you eat. However, this doesn’t mean you should neglect exercise.
Remember, burning fat isn’t just about eating less calories… it’s also about burning more.
There is only one way to start burning more calories, and that’s by moving more. If you want to burn fat as quickly as possible, you have to exercise in a way that burns calories as effectively as possible.
Which brings us to an important point…
Stop wasting time on ab exercises!
Do you still think you can burn fat around your stomach by doing stomach exercises? This is known as spot reduction and, for the most part… it’s a myth!
As health and fitness expert Chris McGrath says in this article:
You can try to cook a turkey with a candle, or you could use the oven. Prioritizing the smaller muscles without addressing the bigger ones is a pennywise and pound-foolish way to train.
So, why for the most part? There is some research that indicates that spot reduction is possible to a certain degree (1). However, trying to spot-reduce your belly fat by doing ab exercises is almost certainly not worth the effort.
Remember… the goal is to burn a lot of calories fast. Your abs are tiny muscles compared to your quads or glutes. So, stop wasting time on ab exercises and start focusing on compound movements that target many large muscle groups simultaneously.
- The 5 Best Equipment Free Bodyweight Exercises for Burning Fat Fast
- Best Full Body Exercises Without Weights
Do resistance training
Every pound of muscle in your body burns about 5 calories a day… and that’s without doing anything. If you have 60 pounds of muscle, you could spend the whole day slouching on the couch and still burn 300 calories.
So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest (also known as basal metabolic rate or MBR).
But, there’s another important reason to include resistance training in your fat loss program…
Preserving muscle mass!!!
Remember, to lose fat you need a caloric deficit (burn more energy than you consume). This energy doesn’t just come from fat. It also comes from muscle! So, if skip resistance training you will lose muscle alongside fat.
This is also the reason you should ditch the scale and use a tape measure instead to measure your results. The weight you lose could be water, fat, muscle or – most probably – a combination of those three.
Resistance training is the only way to optimally preserve lean muscle mass while you are losing fat
Muscle is essential for your body to function properly. This is why preserving muscle mass is so important… especially as you grow older. Your mobility, strength and even your bone density depend on it!
Long story short… don’t neglect resistance training! It doesn’t matter whether you are looking to lose fat or not, resistance training should always be part of your exercise routine.
Crank up the intensity
It’s all about energy expenditure baby! To lose those pounds you gotta burn those calories! There are two ways to speed up your energy expenditure:
- Engage as many muscles as possible in your movements, aka compound/full body exercises
- Increase the intensity
Several studies have proven, conclusively, that you will burn more fat doing shorter, high intensity cardio sessions like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) than you will with longer, steady state cardio sessions(1, 2, 3).
Find ways to move more
Moving more means burning more calories. Even if you don’t have a lot of time to work out, you can probably find lots of little ways to increase your amount of activity during the day.
Here are some simple ways to move more:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Take a walk during your lunch break
- Get a standing desk
- For short distances walk or cycle instead of driving
- Hang a pull-up bar in your living room door and do one pull-up every time you enter the room
- Park further away
- Get a dog
- Do ten push-ups every time you enter your living room
- Walk while you’re eating breakfast
- Sit up strait instead of slouching (this activates your core muscles)
- Walk around or stand in a horse stance while you are brushing your teeth
Use ‘Empty Time’ to burn extra calories
Do you watch TV? If you’re like the average person you probably spend multiple hours every week, or maybe even every day, sitting on the couch mindlessly staring at the screen.
Imagine if you used that time getting in some extra exercise. It could add up to hundreds more calories burnt every week.
Reduce stress to reduce tummy fat
Stress triggers the production of cortisol – the stress hormone – by your adrenal glands. Research shows that cortisol affects fat distribution and causes you to store more fat around the central organs in your abdomen.
This is known as visceral fat. It’s the most dangerous type of fat and can potentially cause serious health problems like heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and raised blood pressure.
Research shows that stress can lead to overeating. It can also cause you to make unhealthier food choices, increasing your intake of fatty and sugary foods.
Get enough sleep
One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce your cortisol levels is by getting sufficient sleep. Research shows that sleep loss results in elevated cortisol levels the next evening (2).
Other ways to reduce stress:
- Taking a walk in nature
- Vigorous exercise