You’re not alone if you’ve found it hard to lose belly fat. It’s the most stubborn fat you’ve got, and the sad thing as that if you’re like most people, you’ll never make a dent in shrinking your waistlines despite your best efforts.
That’s because most people waste their time training and eating the wrong way. After repeated calorie-counting diets and ineffective workout plans, they end up accepting their large waist as a part of life.
This article will give you five tips for losing belly fat forever.
Tip #1: Do intervals.
Intervals are the BEST method for losing belly fat because they target the root of the problem, which is unbalanced hormones. Here’s how it works:
Intervals, in which you perform intermittent bursts of exercise followed by rest, lead to greater growth hormone release, which is a primary fat burning, muscle building hormone.
Interval training has also been found to help reset the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that governs hormone levels. Anytime the HPA axis gets altered due to lack of sleep, a sedentary lifestyle, chronic stress, or all three together you end up gaining belly fat.
You might wonder if intervals are really appropriate if you’re out of shape or have a lot of belly fat to lose. In fact, research shows that some form of intervals are appropriate for just about every population:
Interval training has been tested on kids, the elderly, pregnant women, the obese, people with metabolic syndrome, people with diabetes, people who are completely out of shape, people recovering from a heart attack, lean people, cancer patients, depressed people, athletes, and so on. Yes, interval training is for you!
The key is to do the appropriate type of intervals for your situation. Anyone who’s completely new to exercise should start with walking intervals in which you alternate vigorous (for 2 to 3 minutes) and easy walking (for 1 to 2 minutes).
You can progress to running, cycling, training with weights, or hill or stair intervals. If you’re in decent shape, go for shorter, more intense intervals of 30 to 40 seconds. Advanced trainees can try all-out 10 to 30 second intervals.
How much belly fat can you lose with intervals?
One study found that overweight men lost 1.5 kg of belly fat, which translated into a 17 percent decrease in belly fat after 12 weeks of interval training.
A sister study found that overweight women lost 2.5 kg of fat, of which the majority came from the legs and abdominal area (fat loss was measured this way due to how women store fat differently than men).
#2: Do total body training, prioritizing legs.
Low muscle mass in the lower body means you’ll have more belly fat. This is because when you gain even a little bit of belly fat, the fat produces inflammatory markers, which degrade muscle mass.
As you lose muscle mass, metabolic rate drops and you gain more belly fat. Then, you’re less active and powerful due to less muscle, and you gain even more belly fat. Terrible!
It can all be prevented with smart eating and a total body strength routine. Prioritize lower body lifts early in your workout because they lead to greater growth hormone release, which leads to belly fat loss.
For example, a recent study found that obese subjects with metabolic syndrome lost the most belly fat following intense workouts that led to the greatest growth hormone release.
How should you program total body training?
Total body routines mean that you’ll use a combination of squats, deadlifts, step-ups, lunges, presses, rows, and pulls. It does not mean that you should combine an upper and lower body exercise into one lift, such as squats with bicep curls.
All exercises should be multi-joint, use a fairly heavy weight, and be done nearly to the point where you can’t lift anymore. For example, do squats followed by chin-ups or pull-downs. Then do step-ups followed by bench press. Finish with split squats followed by overhead press.
#3: Eat a high-protein, lower carb diet.
The most consistent indicator of leanness around the waist is a high-quality protein intake. High-quality protein is defined as containing a “threshold” amount of 10 grams of essential amino acids. This sort of protein is typically found in animal protein, dairy, eggs, and whey protein.
Why does eating quality protein help you lose belly fat?
First, the abundant amino acids trigger protein synthesis, which will build lean muscle mass and increase your resting energy expenditure. Building muscle is an easy way to increase your total calorie needs.
Second, when you eat protein, hunger-reducing hormones are elevated to a greater degree than following carb-filled meals so that you feel full longer than if you had eaten high-carb foods. This leads people to eat less overall.
Third, protein can help reduce high-carb intake. When you eat high-carb foods, you over stimulate the HPA axis mentioned in #1 that regulates hormone levels, often leading you to gain belly fat.
#4: Get enough sleep and improve your circadian rhythm.
Everyone knows that lack of sleep is linked with a high body fat, but you might be surprised to learn that the association is strongest with belly fat. Poor sleep leads to an altered circadian rhythm, which causes changes in hormone levels.
Here’s how it works: Growth hormone is one of the most powerful hormones for preventing belly fat gain and it is released at night when you sleep. When you frequently don’t sleep, you don’t get the protective GH release. In addition, lack of sleep causes elevations of the stress hormone cortisol that leads the body to gain belly fat.
High cortisol increases sensations of stress and anxiety, making it harder to sleep. And a viscous cycle develops that can permanently alter the HPA axis.
How can you get better sleep?
Optimizing your circadian rhythm is the key to decent sleep because it will return hormones to balance. A few things can help:
• Exposure to light in the morning is beneficial, but it’s damaging to at night. Avoid bright electronic lights for at least an hour before bed and use amber, dim lights at night.
• Eating at regular intervals improves hormone balance. For instance, in the morning, the hormone ghrelin is elevated, making you hungry. If you eat, ghrelin will decrease, effectively resetting a cascade of hormones and restoring homeostasis.
• Eating at late at night can derail hormone balance because leptin, thyroid hormone, and melatonin will be suppressed if insulin is elevated. Improve this by finishing your last meal at least an hour or two before bedtime.
• Working out improves hormone balance, but too much or too little exercise alters circadian rhythms by elevating cortisol. The optimal exercise dose is 4 or 5 intense 1-hour workouts a week.
#5: Improve insulin sensitivity by optimizing carb intake.
Eating less of certain kinds of carbs is a useful trick for losing belly fat. But low-carb eating done wrong causes more trouble than it’s worth for the following reasons:
• The mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin gets depleted and people get depressed.
• The brain and body can become unresponsive to metabolic hormones such as leptin and insulin when carbs are chronically absent.
• Thyroid function often slows, leading to a drop in metabolism.
Therefore, carbs are an important part of any diet aimed at losing belly fat.
Here are principles for optimizing carb intake:
Eat carbs after working out because this can help lower cortisol. In addition, your metabolism will be elevated and the body will use carbs to replenish muscle glycogen instead of storing them as fat.
Avoid refined and high-glycemic carbs for breakfast and pre-workout because the increase in insulin will shift the body away from burning fat. It also reduces energy levels and motivation.
Replace grains with veggies. Use leafy greens instead of bread. Try making “pasta” noodles out of winter squash or the inside of spaghetti squash. Substitute cauliflower for rice. Turn to blueberries and strawberries instead of cookies.
Eat plenty of fibrous carbs, especially green vegetables and dark-colored fruits. These foods are nutrient-rich, low in calories, and very filling. They’re also fairly easy to digest and don’t cause the same array of immune problems as grains.
What other tricks are there for improving insulin sensitivity?
Here are a few food pairing tricks that improve insulin health:
• Cook carbs with healthy fats such as butter, olive oil, or coconut oil.
• Flavor carbs with acids such as vinegars, lemon, or lime.
• Eat pickled foods such as kim chi, sauerkraut, or pickled ginger as condiments.
• Use cinnamon, fenugreek, and turmeric to spice high-carb foods.
• Pair high-carb and antioxidant-rich foods like oatmeal and blueberries or rice and kale.