Still, it’s a worthy goal to lose belly fat because it’s “unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it circulates throughout the bloodstream more regularly and is therefore likelier to raise the amount of fat in your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels and putting you at a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The sprawl is basically a burpee on steroids—a full body exercise that works as many muscles as possible and burns calories while shaping and toning upper- and lower-body, especially your abs. “It takes the traditional burpee to the next level by having you touch your chest to the ground, then push-up to plank as you continue the move,” explains Braganza.
4. Meditate daily: A study from the University of California, San Francisco found that meditating for just 30 minutes a day can reduce belly fat by way of reducing stress levels (remember that cortisol/fat connection). Plus, a regular mindfulness or meditation practice can help you eat less calories overall and cave less to cravings and emotional eating (and all those processed ingredients that wreak havoc on your fat-regulating hormones).
4. Eat more protein: Upping your protein is crucial for shedding fat. For starters, the macronutrient helps keep you full, preventing overeating and extraneous calories. And without adequate amounts of the macronutrient, muscle protein synthesis is diminished, your muscles can’t rebuild bigger and stronger, and your resting metabolism is lowered, says nutrition specialist and exercise physiologist, Marta Montenegro, CSCS, adjunct professor in Exercise & Sports Sciences at Florida International University. Plus, it gives your calorie burn a little boost since protein takes more energy for your body to process than carbs or fat.
2. Go to sleep earlier: A study in BMC Public Health found that people who racked up insufficient sleep on the reg were more likely to have a higher BMI. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Chicago found that sleep loss causes decreased glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity (those processes that cause your body to shuttle nutrients into fat cells instead of muscle cells) as well as elevated levels of ghrelin—the hunger hormone—and cortisol, the stress hormone that encourages your body to store fat. What’s more, the less you sleep, the less testosterone your body is able to produce. In short, skimping on sleep messes with all the hormones that help extra fat off your body—so hit the hay already. Shoot for at least 7 hours a night, more if you’re training hard because your body needs more time to repair and rest.
How to do burpees: Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart and send your hips back as you lower your body toward the ground in a low squat. Then, place your hands right outside of your feet and hop your feet back, allowing your chest to touch the floor. Push your hands against the floor to lift your body up into a plank and then jump your feet just outside of your hands. With your weight in your heels, jump explosively into the air with your arms overhead.
For our purposes here, high-intensity cardio falls between about 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) or, if you're not using heart rate zones, about a 6 to 8 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. What this translates to is exercise at a level that feels challenging and leaves you too breathless to talk in complete sentences. But you're not going all out, as in sprinting as fast as you can. There's no doubt that some high-intensity training work can be helpful for weight loss as well as improving endurance and aerobic capacity.
2. Beta-alanine: This one doesn’t directly burn fat, but it does help you work out harder and longer, which in turn lets you melt that extra layer. The non-essential amino acid converts to carnosine, which is one of the strongest buffers against your muscles getting fatigued. Because carnosine keeps your muscles from calling it quits, studies have found beta-alanine can help your performance during HIIT, increase strength, and even help you gain more muscle to then reap all those metabolism boosts.
Exercising at lower intensities will use more fat for energy. This basic premise is what started the theory of the fat burning zone, which is the idea that working in a certain heart rate zone (around 55 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate) will allow your body to burn more fat. Over the years, this theory has become so ingrained in our exercise experience that we see it touted in books, charts, websites, magazines, and even on cardio machines at the gym.
There's no way around the fact that, when it comes to burning more fat, you have to work at it. There is no magic exercise, workout, or pill that will do the job for you. The good news is that it doesn't take much activity to push the body into that fat burning mode. Try incorporating some type of activity every day, even if it's just a quick walk, and build on that over time as it becomes more of a routine. Do that and you're on the way to burning more fat.