To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
Sure, ketchup is tasty, but it’s also a serious saboteur when it comes your weight loss efforts. Ketchup is loaded with sugar — up to four grams per tablespoon — and bears little nutritional resemblance to the fruit from which it’s derived. Luckily, swapping out your ketchup for salsa can help you shave off that belly fat fast. Fresh tomatoes, like those used in salsa, are loaded with lycopene, which a study conducted at China Medical University in Taiwan links to reductions in both overall fat and waist circumference. If you like your salsa spicy, all the better; the capsaicin in hot peppers, like jalapeños and chipotles, can boost your metabolism, too.
A 2012 study in the Journal of Functional Foods found that people who drank one and a half cups of green tea enriched with a total of 609 milligrams of catechins (a group of antioxidants that have been shown to help burn fat cells) every day for 12 weeks lost almost 16 times as much visceral fat as those who consumed green tea without the added antioxidants. To achieve similar results with store-bought green tea, you’ll need to brew two to four cups daily (many varieties can contain 160 to 470 milligrams of catechins per cup).
A University of Michigan study found that lab rats who nommed on a diet enriched with powdered blueberries had less abdominal fat after 90 days than rats who ate a standard diet. The researchers suspected that blueberries are so good at targeting belly fat because of their high levels of phytochemicals, a naturally occurring antioxidant. FYI, blueberries are also an excellent source of fibre.
Craving something sweet? This fruit — along with colorful radishes, tomatoes, and carrots — contains arabinogalactans, a plant-based fiber and prebiotic that feeds the friendly bacteria that help your metabolism function optimally. The fiber also kills E. coli and klebsiella — two types of bad bacteria associated with carrying excess weight, Kellman says. Chop kiwi into grilled chicken salads or purée into smoothies for a colorful and sweet kick.
You've heard it before, but it needs to be said again, as at least 70 percent of Americans aren't listening: "Staying up late may make you happy in the moment, but all that sleep you're skipping catches up to you in the form of extra fat around your middle," says Ilyse Schapiro, R.D., a certified nutritionist and co-author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? Yes, "me time" is important for your sanity, but "when you're lacking sleep, your body overproduces the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, and under-produces leptin, which tells you when you're full." Getting proper shut-eye — the National Sleep Foundation says seven to nine hours is best, though it varies per person — truly stops unnecessary snacking when you wake up the next day.
In addition to helping maintain heart health and keep inflammation levels under control, monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, may stop belly fat before it starts. Research in the journal Diabetes Care found that people who got roughly 25 percent of their total daily calories from MUFAs gained no visceral fat over the course of the study, while those who ate less MUFAs and more carbs added fat to their midsections. My favorite MUFA-rich food is olive oil because you can use it in so many meals (check out the belly-blasting breakfast I recommend), but avocados and nuts are other excellent sources. Pine nuts are particularly great because they also contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These acids increase levels of two hormones that signal your brain when you’re full. Try snacking on one ounce of pine nuts (about the amount you can fit in a shot glass) 20 minutes before mealtime to avoid overeating.
Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink to keep track of how many calories you're taking in and figure out what bad habits you need to correct. You'll be much less likely to go overboard if you know you have to write it down. You can also use a food tracking app if you prefer, which may make the process a bit easier since most apps calculate the nutrition values for you.
“Include lots of nutrient-rich vegetables, a source of protein and some healthy, unprocessed carbs,” says Belalij. “Start with leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens, then add carrots, broccoli and peas. Lean meats, including turkey and chicken, are ideal as they are lower in fat and therefore calories, or, if you are vegetarian/vegan, add in tofu or a handful of nuts such as pine, cashew or almonds and a sprinkling of seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin). When it comes to carbohydrates, rice, quinoa and potatoes are perfect.”