Losing abdominal fat, or belly fat, is a common weight loss goal. A flat abdomen has always been the icon of fitness, good health and attractiveness. Every day, there are new diets, workouts and exercise equipment products geared towards losing belly fat and achieving flat, sexy abs.
But losing belly fat isn’t just about looking good; it’s about being healthy. We now know that excess belly fat is a huge indicator of overall health, especially the risks of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Losing stored belly fat not only makes you look great and feel better about yourself, it lowers your risk for several diseases and conditions that can greatly affect and even shorten your life.
Some of your fat is right under your skin. Other fat is deeper inside, around your heart, lungs, liver, and other organs. It’s that deeper fat — called “visceral” fat — that may be the bigger problem, even for thin people.
Having excess belly fat affects your health in several ways (1):
- Damages your liver
- Increases insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- Increases the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Increases the risk of dementia
Dropping belly fat can be a challenge. If you feel your efforts aren’t giving you the results you want, here are simple ways to help backed by science:
Break the Cortisol Cycle:
Cortisol is one of the stress hormones naturally produced and secreted in the body. Cortisol’s specific job is to react to stress signals by storing fat in the abdominal area (2). The reason this system exists is that, in ages past, stress often indicated a chance of famine in the near future.
Back when people moved from place to place to find food and were often considered food themselves by other predators, stress was a signal that we were on the run and food was going to be in short supply. Very few of us are in danger of famine from the stress we’re under today, but the body’s system for storing fat in times of stress remains in place.
We’re more stressed today than people have ever been before. We have financial problems, busy schedules, demanding jobs and families to take care of in between. That stress triggers the release of cortisol into our bloodstreams, which causes our bodies to direct fat to the abdomen to be used in case of famine (3).
The problem is, there is no famine. We continue to eat more than enough food, so that fat is never used as an energy source. In order to reduce the amount of cortisol coursing through your system, you should:
1. Get a minimum of seven hours sleep every night, on a regular schedule.
2. Eat as often as possible, with no more than two hours between meals and snacks. Research shows going more than two or three hours without eating:
- Causes a sharp drop in blood sugar, creating cravings for unhealthy carbs and sugars.
- Slows the metabolism.
- Increases cortisol levels in the blood.
- Causes fatigue and mental fogginess that has us reaching for coffee, sodas and candy bars.
3. Have at least fifteen minutes a day that is devoted to effectively reducing stress, unwinding, loosening up, laughing, and de-stressing by any means that works for you.
Reverse Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance causes excess belly fat to be stored because glucose is not being used as energy. At the same time, excess belly fat and the eating patterns that cause it can also create insulin resistance (4).
As with correcting the cortisol cycle, avoiding, reducing, and reversing insulin resistance is achieved through dietary changes, reducing belly fat, and moderate exercise. Specifically, you can correct or prevent insulin resistance in five ways (5):
- Eliminating almost all processed foods, which are filled with sugar and refined flour.
- Reducing overall sugar intake.
- Increasing protein and plant fiber intake to slow absorption of carbs.
- Frequent meals and snacks to keep blood sugar steady.
- Regular exercise (cardio and strength) improves insulin sensitivity
Increase Vitamin C Intake
Vitamin C has always been known as the wonder vitamin when it comes to preventing and relieving colds and other infections. However, the importance of vitamin C goes far beyond fighting infection and boosting immunity.
Vitamin C is also one of the key players in losing belly fat. It does this in two ways:
- First, vitamin C is necessary for the production of L-carnitine, a chemical used to transport stored fat, particularly abdominal fat, to where it can be burned as energy (6).
- Second, vitamin C reduces the effects of stress on the body, which helps to break the cortisol cycle, so that your body is stimulated to both burn stored belly fat and to stop storing new belly fat (7).
Vitamin C is a soluble vitamin, which means that our bodies don’t store it up in great quantities. We use a great deal of it for cell renewal and cell production and most of the rest of it is spent fighting off infection. Unfortunately, stress also uses up a great deal of vitamin C.
We’re stressed, so we have excess cortisol released into our bloodstreams, causing our bodies to store belly fat. That stress we’re under also uses up all of our extra vitamin C, so there isn’t enough L-carnitine to move that belly fat to where it can be repurposed as energy.
Aim every morning and evening (or late afternoon) to take 1000mg vitamin C.
Regulate Your Leptin and Ghrelin Levels
You’ve met cortisol; now let us introduce you to leptin and ghrelin. Both are hormones that greatly influence your weight by controlling your appetite (8).
- Leptin is secreted in fat tissue and sends a signal to your brain that lets it know you’re full.
- Ghrelin is secreted in the intestinal tract and sends signals indicating that you’re hungry.
Leptin and ghrelin aren’t stress hormones, but they do have something in common with cortisol: they are impacted by your sleep habits.
Several recent research studies have shown that people who get less than seven hours of sleep per night have elevated ghrelin levels and decreased leptin levels. What this means for you is that getting adequate (7-8 hours minimum) sleep, preferably at the same time each night, is essential to keeping leptin and ghrelin on your side.
It won’t take long to get them regulated so that you’ll soon be overeating less and seeing fewer hunger pangs. This translates to faster belly fat loss without having to do anything other than sleep.
make Your Exercise Interval Training
Interval training is simply alternating periods of moderate work with shorter bursts of more intense work. It has been proven to be far more effective than a static (steady-paced) workout. In fact, twenty minutes of interval training boosts your metabolism longer than an hour of static exercise (9).
With interval training, you are constantly keeping your body guessing, so your metabolism is never given a chance to adjust and slow down. This metabolism boost means that you’ll burn more calories throughout the day, no matter what you’re doing. This allows you to lose fat faster without cutting calories.
Another benefit to interval training is that you don’t have to spend hours working out. You can spend just twenty or thirty minutes a day on interval training.