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.
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.
Sientz, C. A., Aiken, L. B., Hournard, J. A., Bales, C. W., Johnson, J. L., Tanner, C. J., … Kraus, W. E. (2005, October 1). Inactivity, exercise, and visceral fat, STRRIDE: A randomized, controlled study of exercise intensity and amount [Abstract]. Journal of Applied Physiology, 99(4), 1613–1618. Retrieved from http://jap.physiology.org/content/99/4/1613.short
“Under normal conditions, humans absorb only about 80% of the nutrients from the food they eat,” says A. Roberto Frisancho, Ph.D., a weight-loss researcher at the University of Michigan. But, he says, when the body is deprived of nourishment, it becomes a super-efficient machine, pulling what nutrients it can from whatever food is consumed. Start eating again normally and your body may not catch up; instead it will continue to store food as fat.
In a 2012 study in the journal Obesity, subjects who increased their soluble fiber intake by 10 grams a day—the equivalent of two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half-cup of pinto beans—reduced visceral fat by 3.7 percent after five years. Even more, participants who also engaged in moderate physical activity (exercising vigorously two to four times a week) experienced a 7.4 decrease in visceral fat over the same period of time.
"When we’re lacking in sleep, our body’s hormones get thrown off balance which can impact our hunger levels the next day. We all have two hormones that affect our appetite: ghrelin and leptin. When we don’t get enough sleep, our ghrelin levels (the hormone that makes us feel hungry) rise, and our leptin levels (the hormone that makes us feel full) drop. This means that when we’re awake, we tend to eat more but feel less satisfied. Try going to bed a little earlier than usual to avoid this imbalance and remember to remove any distractions that might prevent you from nodding off."
That sour cherry is pretty sweet when it comes to your health. The results of a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that rats given high-fat foods along with tart cherries ditched nine percent more body fat than those in a control group over just 12 weeks. Cherries are also a good source of antioxidant pigment resveratrol, which has been linked to reductions in belly fat, dementia risk, and lower rates of macular degeneration among the elderly.
Snack on portion-controlled fruit, seeds and nuts. One study found that snacking on 42g of almonds per day (instead of munching on something high-carb with equal calories) helped to reduce belly fat and improved cholesterol levels. “The high levels of fibre are proven to combat excess calorie consumption later in the day,” says registered dietitian Lucy Jones.
The most important thing you need to do is to program yourself mentally. Don't use a scale to measure your progress. If you work out with weights, you may gain a few pounds while losing inches around the waist. Instead, use that pair of jeans that you want to fit into again, or a pair that fits you now. You'll see a slight change every few weeks, and that should give you confidence.
It seems counterintuitive to feed the microbiome foods with antimicrobial properties, but studies show that garlic only goes after bad, inflammation-causing bacteria while leaving good bacteria intact. It's also rich in inulin, the fiber that helps the body digest food more efficiently and steadies blood sugar. Add fresh chopped garlic to tomato-mozzarella salads and stir-fries, or sprinkle garlic powder onto meats and fish before grilling.
The study authors believe that sleep deprivation can cause your body to produce extra hunger hormones (like ghrelin) and fewer satiety hormones (like leptin). This means you’ll feel hungrier and have a harder time controlling your cravings once they hit. Most adults should aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of shuteye per night, per the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations.
Everybody loves their quinoa, but it's time to elevate this less-popular grain to superfood status. "While processed grains and sugar are the main culprits for promoting abdominal fat, whole grains are in another category altogether," says St.John. "Intact grains [i.e., ones that haven't been stripped of their nutrients, as is frequently the case with 'white' options] contain fiber which slows digestion and absorption of the grains, which in turn reduces the amount of insulin released by the body." What does this mean for you? The less insulin your body releases equals less abdominal fat tacking itself onto your tummy.
Add resistance training. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that combining cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise with resistance training is more effective than cardiovascular training alone in getting rid of abdominal fat. You can do resistance training with free weights, exercise machines or resistance bands and it may also be useful to train from unstable positions due to increased muscle activity.
Thanks to the hormone estrogen, the female body likes to hold on to fat, too. A study in Obesity Reviews shows that women store fat more efficiently than men in an effort to prepare the body for pregnancy. But while it seems like women may have drawn the short-end of the stick, the stereotypical pear-shape is actually considered healthier than boasting a beer gut, because belly fat is a red flag when it comes to your health. “Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome,” says Harris-Pincus.
Do you even lift, bro? If you’re serious about getting rid of that belly fat fast, resistance training might just be the key. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that adding weight training to adult male test subjects’ workouts significantly reduced their risk of abdominal obesity over a multi-year study period, although doing the same amount of cardio had no such effect. Research from the University of Maryland even found that just 16 weeks of weight training boosted study participants’ metabolic rates by a whopping 7.7 percent, making it easier to ditch those extra inches around your middle.
Belly fat is a major concern for many. Not only does it make your figure unattractive, but also increases the risk of developing hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Recently, Public Health England stated for the first time that belly fat is the clearest sign of type 2 diabetes. Another significant study, published in the Journal Heart, states that having a big belly significantly increases the risk for sudden cardiac death. The most common causes include genetics, hormonal imbalance, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.
Saturated fats in food will pack on more visceral fat than polyunsaturated ones, according to a 2014 Swedish study. When subjects ate 750 more calories daily for seven weeks, either in the form of palm oil (saturated) or sunflower oil (polyunsaturated), the former gained more visceral fat while the latter gained more muscle mass and less body fat. The study authors believe different fat types can impact both the way your body forms fat and stores it. What’s more, including healthy fats in your meals can make them more satiating and keeps hunger at bay.
It’s pretty common for men to pack some extra poundage around their midsection. In fact, the average man is about 24lbs heavier today than men in 1960, according to stats from The State of Obesity—and the figures are rising. We’ve seen slimmer days, but don’t think this is a grim sentence, dooming you to eternal chubbiness. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways for you to burn belly fat—fast.
High-intensity interval training is high on every trainer’s list, and for good reason. “My No.1 pick for fat loss would be high-intensity interval training, just because you’re burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time. You’re getting more bang for your buck. I know a lot of guys that don’t have all day to work out in a gym, so when it comes to belly fat you have to focus on calorie burn and intense workouts,” says Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach. Think bootcamps, tabata, and series of burpees, box jumps, and sprints—those all do the trick. The best thing about HIIT is that it keeps your body working long after you leave the gym, burning calories and fat on your off hours via a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, aka EPOC.
Earlier, belly fat was considered healthy; it was perceived as a reservoir of adipose tissues that could be utilized when a person needed extra energy. With time, the views have changed. Researchers state that excess belly fat triggers chronic cardiovascular diseases. So, it is important to measure belly fat and check how much you need to reduce. Here are some parameters to measure your waistline.
"With all the different tips out there, it can be tricky to understand exactly which exercises work the best. HIIT is great for fat burning and will get your heart rate up, but I’d also recommend including strength (resistance) exercises too. Try lifting weights, using resistance bands or using the weight machines at the gym as these will increase your metabolism to help with weight loss, and increase your muscle strength. It’s important to mix-up your whole-body workouts so you don’t get bored."
"A study published in the International Journal of Obesity compared weight loss after an egg breakfast compared to a bagel breakfast containing similar calories," explains Toby Amidor, R.D., author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. "Results founds that participants who consumed two eggs in their breakfast while following a lower-calorie diet lost 65 percent more weight and reduced their waist circumference by 34 percent compared with those who were on a similar calorie bagel breakfast." Eggs are also a great source of protein, which works to keep hunger at bay and curb overeating.
Belly fat is, in fact, the colloquial term for abdominal fat. According to medical experts, belly fat can be potentially dangerous. Excess of it can lead to a number of health problems including heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, a decrease in the level of HDL or good cholesterol, and can even lead to strokes or sleep apnea. You need to combat this problem before it gets too late.
Dieting and exercise go hand in hand. If you thought that only dieting will burn your belly fat, you are wrong. If you really want to lose weight, you need to include an hour of exercise in your daily routine for targeting and reducing belly fat. Here, we have compiled a list of 16 exercises that can help you reduce belly fat faster than you thought it would take:
"As we head into colder months with less sun exposure, vitamin D intake from food becomes extremely important. Research shows that low levels of vitamin D may be correlated with abdominal obesity," says Kayleen St.John, R.D., executive director of Nutrition and Strategic Development of Euphebe. "Mushrooms grown under UV light should be incorporated into belly fat-fighting meals." Try this Italian Mushroom and Bean Soup.
2. Decline Bench Sit Up Ceiling Touches: This great exercise works on your shoulder, abs and lower back. Sit on the bench with the weight on your lap. As you move backwards, lock your arms and raise the weight above your body. Touch your back to the bench and use your abs to sit up. As you sit up you should keep your arms and weight pointed to the ceiling.
Which means, sadly, the more glasses of rose and chocolate-coated pretzels you eat, the longer it will take to reach your flatter belly goals. “When you digest large amounts of calories, your body allocates some of these to functional systems which work to keep you alive (think the brain, muscles and organs),” says Belalij. “It also uses it to fill up energy stores. Any excess is then stored in fat cells around the body – typically being those of the belly.”