Let’s be real. As much as we love and embrace our curves, stubborn belly fat can be both annoying and embarrassing. Notoriously, it ruins our look, making our once-flattering dress look like we will tear it if we breathe. But there is something that stubborn belly fat does which is way worse. This “white fat” has the ability of seeping into our internal organs and sets us up for serious health problems. If you want to learn how to reduce belly fat, you’ve come to the right place.
In order to understand how to reduce belly fat, you first need to understand fat and how it affects your body.
There are two types of belly fat: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.
While belly fat is not visible, it is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which is characterised by dimple-like skin. Both are stored in the body in different ways — and harm the body in their own way as well.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the two.
1. Visceral fat
This is also called active fat and is generally stored in our abdominal cavity. It settles deep and near vital organs like the stomach, liver and intestines.
Visceral fat can be quite dangerous to the body because it can lead to serious health complications.
- It increases insulin resistance, even if you’ve never had diabetes. Research published in PubMed suggests that this may be because visceral fat secretes retinol-binding protein, which leads to insulin resistance.
- It also increases the risk of a heart attack, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news is with a balanced diet and exercises such as cardio, you can get rid of this type of fat.
2. Subcutaneous fat
This type of fat lies directly under the skin. You may have noticed it as dimples on your skin, especially in areas such as the thighs, arms and of course, the belly.
Subcutaneous fat actually acts as a shield for the body and helps to maintain the internal temperature.
One of its most famous forms is cellulite. It is this cellulite that creates the dimpled appearance. And, although it doesn’t really cause any health complications, it can be unsightly for some.
Incidentally, it is also found in some skinny body structures. It becomes more noticeable as people get older and their skin gets thinner.
This type of fat, however, is far more difficult to burn off. It requires resistance training and sometimes even weight training so that the loose skin can become tight.
How to reduce belly fat: 7 scientifically proven methods that work
In your fat-loss efforts, it is possible to create a fat loss programme that targets both visceral and subcutaneous fats. So not only do you have to begin with a structured exercise regime, you will also have to concentrate on your diet.
Luckily, there are scientifically proven methods than can help you prepare your customised fat loss plan. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Don’t stop moving
When you first chart out a fat loss programme, exercise and physical activity should be your priority. Begin by concentrating on losing visceral fat. You can get rid of it by engaging in activities that pump up your heart rate.
You can vaporise your calories by running, walking, jogging, cycling and even swimming. The idea is to pump up your heartbeat and keep it in motion. This is the best way to lose visceral fat.
In fact, you don’t even have to push yourself to engage in cardio exercises for hours at a stretch. Simple exercises like brisk walking can reduce risk of medical complications caused by visceral fat.
A recent study by Duke Health (University of Duke, U.S.) proves that “Walking briskly on a regular basis may be more effective than vigorous jogging for improving glucose control in individuals with pre-diabetes.”
So opt for low-intensity exercises to lose visceral fat.
Dr. William Kraus, M.D., lead author and professor of medicine, Division of Cardiology, Duke University School of Medicine, explains, “High-intensity exercise tends to burn glucose more than fat, while moderate-intensity exercise tends to burn fat more than glucose.”
2. Include yoga in your daily exercise routine
If you already perform a few yoga asanas, you are on the right track. However, if you haven’t started yet, now is the time.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of The North American Menopause Society proves that women who tried a 16-week yoga programme saw a significant reduction of their visceral fat.
The study noted, “Body weight, percentage of body fat, lean body mass, body mass index, waist circumference, and visceral fat area had significantly decreased.”
If you cannot perform the sun salutation or the downward dog at first, don’t worry. You can also begin with relaxing and stretching exercises. The idea should be to relax your body and bring down the cortisol level. A study by the Yale University has proved that stress levels increase cortisol and lead to accumulation of fat in the belly.
“Non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat, and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” the Yale University study suggests.
3. Try to get 8 to 9 hours of sleep
Sleeping is as important as exercising, especially when it comes to losing belly fat. If you do not get your seven to eight hour of sleep, or as much as your body needs, it can cause accumulation of fat around your organs.
A study by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, U.S. proved that there was “a clear association between averaging five hours or less of sleep each night and large increases in visceral fat, or fat around the organs.”
So getting some shut eye is as important as hitting the gym. However, there is a catch.
The study also proved that excessive sleeping can lead to the accumulation of fat. “The researchers found that getting more than eight hours of sleep on average per night has a similar – though less pronounced – affect,” the researchers noted.
“Both may be detrimental and, in general, people should aim for six to eight hours of sleep each night,” shared Kristen G. Hairston, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the university and lead author on the study.
So if you have been wondering how to reduce belly fat without too much physical activity, catching up on your sleep is the answer
4. Eat your proteins
Proteins are crucial to build up muscles. But did you know that they are also great to reduce that stubborn belly fat?
That’s because your body begins to resist insulin as you grow older but a high protein diet protects your body against insulin resistance. So it not only reduces the chances of diabetes but, also helps reduce fat.
A study published in the Nutrition and Metabolism journal proves that, “Some of the potential mechanisms that account for weight loss associated with high-protein diets involve increased secretion of satiety hormones (GIP, GLP-1), reduced orexigenic hormone secretion (ghrelin), the increased thermic effect of food and protein-induced alterations in gluconeogenesis to improve glucose homeostasis.”
In other words, a high protein diet can help considerably to lose fat. But at the same time, you need to be aware of the side effects of consuming too much protein, such as increased acid load to the kidneys or high fat content of animal proteins. As long as you are aware of these risks, it is possible to formulate a protein-rich, balanced diet for yourself.
Include lean meat, seafood, beans, low-fat dairy, eggs as well as nuts and seeds in your daily diet if you want to see that belly fat go down.
5. Add polysaturates to your food
You may already know that saturated fat (found in sausage, bacon, butter, suet, lard, coconut oil and palm oil) packs more visceral fat. But you may not know that polysaturated fat doesn’t add more visceral fat, but adds muscle fat instead.
This is proved by a Swedish study conducted by the Lund University. The researchers wanted to check the impact of saturated and polysaturated fats on the body. They found that polysaturated fats “improved carbohydrate metabolism in the body.”
You can find polysaturated fat in oily fish such as a mackerel, herring and salmon, as well as in algae, nuts and oils made from rapeseed, sunflower seeds and corn.
So whenever you prepare festive dishes or ones that require you to add oil, opt for these oils. In addition, make it a point to eat oily fish as well as nuts.
6. And a spoonful of vinegar too…
A Japanese study published in PubMed proves that vinegar can actually help you lose visceral fat faster than you would expect.
In their report, the experts concluded that “Body weight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels were significantly lower in both vinegar intake groups. Daily intake of vinegar might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome by reducing obesity.”
Pamela Peeke, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fight Fat After 40 told Prevention, “One theory is that the acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that burn up fat.”
However, since vinegar is quite acidic and cannot be taken directly, diluting it is a good idea. Better yet, flavoured vinegars such as apple cider vinegar and grape vinegar can also work. You can include them in your salads as well as your meals. But we advise you to speak with your doctor before trying this.
7. Stock up your green tea cabinets
Everybody says this and most people do it, and that’s because it actually works! Yes ladies. Believe it or not, green tea works to reduce stubborn belly fat.
If you exercise moderately and eat healthy, an addition of catechin-rich green tea can drastically reduce visceral fat.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Functional Foods, proved that “Visceral fat, body weight and fat were reduced significantly in catechin group.”
“Daily consumption of tea containing 690 mg catechins for 12 wk reduced body fat, which suggests that the ingestion of catechins might be useful in the prevention and improvement of lifestyle-related diseases, mainly obesity,” the researchers noted.
Catechins are antioxidant compounds and are associated with a variety of health benefits including weight loss, cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cancer.
So if you were wondering how to reduce belly fat, we hope these seven scientifically proven methods will become a part of your fat loss programme. Because according to science, they actually work!