Aside from the aesthetics, having less stomach fat can have a number of health benefits. It decreases the risk of diabetes and heart disease. You can also increase your fitness, become a more mobile and active person without the excess belly fat weighing you down.
While weight loss can mean losing this fat, it can also mean losing muscle, which is not ideal. Here are some guidelines for losing belly fat and staying on track.
Combine Different Types of Exercise
- Effective fat-burning involves a mixture of cardio, strength and core exercises. Choose something you enjoy that gets your heart-rate up, such as jogging, aerobics, brisk walking or dance. If you enjoy sports, consider taking up squash, tennis, soccer or hockey, all of which are among the most cardio-intense games. Anything that keeps you moving for a while and gets you sweating.
- Follow these cardio sessions with strength and core exercises. Group classes such as yoga and pilates are a great way to work on your muscles. But if you are on a tight schedule or budget, doing these exercises in your own home can be just as effective. The most important thing is to ensure that you have the right technique.
- To burn fat more effectively, mix up your routine and incorporate weights into your exercises at least twice per week. Weights will burn energy, while simultaneously building muscle throughout your body.
- Rather than ‘spot-reducing’, many fitness trainers recommend whole-body toning exercises which strengthen all of your muscles. Having a greater muscle mass will allow you to burn more energy, even while resting.
Boost your metabolism
- There are a number of simple ways to kickstart your fat-burning potential. Exercising first thing in the morning, for example, will increase your metabolic rate by 10 percent for up to four hours.
- For even better results, make yourself a cup of green tea after your morning work-out. Green tea contains an active ingredient called catechin, which research suggests enhances the metabolism and may also help suppress your appetite. Sipping green tea before, during or after breakfast will also improve your general sense of well-being.
- Finally, eat less, more often. Many dieticians recommend eating smaller meals regularly throughout the day as this increases the rate of your metabolism as you digest the food. Fasting, on the contrary, is known to slow down the metabolism.
Fill up on Nutritious Foods
- Not all calories are equal. This is not to say that eating a deficient of calories based on your energy needs will not result in weight loss. The math still applies. But it is much easier to follow a weight-loss diet when you are eating foods that are filling. For example, a 600mL bottle of soft-drink can have over 1000kj. Two hard-boiled eggs on a slice of multi-grain toast would have around the same amount of food energy. The difference is that the bottle of soft-drink is packed with ‘empty calories’ which do nothing to full you up, while the eggs on toast will satisfy your hunger and fuel your body.
- Foods high in protein, fibre and complex carbohydrates are full of essential nutrients and vitamins. Remember that protein generally increases satiety, while foods that are high in fibre burn energy as your body works to break them down.
- It is also essential to get good fats into your body. These fats are found in a range of foods such as walnuts, avocados, olives and sunflower seeds.
- If you are lowering your calorie intake, it is important to do so at a reasonable rate. A dramatic energy deficit over a long period of time will lead to health problems further down the track. It will also make it difficult to maintain your flatter stomach once you have reached your goals.
Drink More Water
- While staying hydrated will benefit anyone, there it is particularly helpful for fat-burning.
- Carry a water bottle with you everywhere and sip it throughout the day. You will be surprised by how much of a difference it makes. Increasing your water intake will make you feel fuller and more refreshed throughout the day. It will decrease cravings for sugary beverages and improve your ability to push yourself further during exercise.
- You might want to follow the saying – Sleep Like a baby. In a 2010 study, dieters who slept 8.5 hours per night lost double the weight as those who got 5.5 hours sleep. The study also found that those who slept more held on to almost twice as much muscle.
- Sleep will allow you better recovery from strength exercises, so that you can be ready for your next work-out.
- It also lowers ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’. This explains those sleepless nights where you find yourself over-eating the following day.
- Sleeping more will reduce your apetite and as mentioned before, burn more calories as you begin to gain muscle.
Track Your Progress
- Too often, the numbers of the scale are treated as the final word when it comes to fat loss goals. But these numbers rise when you gain muscle. Your weight will also fluctuate depending on how recently you have eaten and will rise with bloating, which happens when you eat salty foods.
- While the scales are a factor to consider, your waste measurements and the fit of your clothes will be a far better indication.
- There are also a number of online communities that allow you to set goals, track your journey, plan your exercise and build supportive online friendships with others. They are also great places for sharing recipes, work-out ideas and seeking advice.