Okay, you get the point: belly fat = bad. How do you lose it? You have to think beyond crunches and planks and adopt a well-rounded approach. “It’s got to be more losing fat as a whole,” agrees Chris Gagliardi, a certified personal trainer at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Without further ado, here are the best ways to lose belly fat once and for all.
6. Fast once a week: While regularly underfeeding your body completely messes with your hormone balance, there’s sufficient research to suggest that intermittent fasting (IF)—or going without any food for set intervals—can actually help your insulin sensitivity and burn more fat. Researchers at LSU, for example, found that when people fasted all day, every other day, their fat oxidation increased and they actually lost 4 percent of their body fat in just 22 days. There are a lot of ways to go about IF, from fasting for 12 to 16 hours every day, to going 24 hours once a week. (Learn more about it here.)
It's more challenging than a normal plank where your hands are on the floor, because the BOSU tests your balance, says Sanford. "When your body tries to find control as your balance is challenged, your abs, obliques, and deep transverse abdominal muscles are activated," he says. Strengthening these core muscles also helps increase your metabolism, ultimately helping you to burn more calories and fat.
At its core, burning fat comes down to the process of lipolysis—the breaking down of fat lipids, explains Seedman. This happens in the mitochondria of the muscles, or the powerhouses of the cells, responsible for generating the energy our cells need to do their jobs. Exercise has been shown to improve mitochondria function, which then promotes fat breakdown, Seedman adds. Plus, working out helps regulate pretty much all the hormones that optimize fat loss.
1. Thermogenic fat loss supplements: These capsules are typically loaded with ingredients that help build heat in the body and increase your fat burning abilities. In a new study in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, guys who took supps like this saw their resting metabolic rate increase by 7 to 9 percent compared to taking a placebo.
Find ways to reduce your stress. People under excess stress tend to make less healthy food choices, and they may also burn fat more slowly. Excessive stress is bad for your skin, it's bad for your sleep, it's bad for relationships — it's just bad overall. So find a healthy way to get rid of it! You'll feel better no matter how much it helps you in losing body fat.
Even though artificially sweetened drinks are calorie-free, drinking too many can actually hinder your fat-loss progress. It seems that beverages like diet soda mess with your brain’s ability to regulate calorie intake, causing you to feel hungrier than normal so you eat more total calories. Other research suggests that the sweet taste of these drinks can increase the release of insulin, which can blunt fat-burning and enhance fat storage.
This may explain why the fat-burning effects of eating more protein were confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. One group was fed a high-protein diet (just over 1 gram per pound of body weight per day) while the second group consumed an amount closer to the lower recommendation of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance). The group eating the higher-protein diet burned the most fat.
Aim to do ab work 3 or 4 times a week on non-consecutive days with at least 24 hours of rest in between sessions, says Gagliardi. During those sessions, you can start with simpler moves like crunches, bicycle crunches, and planks. Even though you may only be directly targeting your abs 3 or 4 times a week, you should still be activating your core (aka, tightening your ab muscles) in every workout you do, says Gagliardi.
A big part of weight loss is simply being aware of the decisions you’re making. For example, when out at happy hour with friends, you may lose track of how much you're eating or drinking. But if you take a split second to step back and become aware of that fact, you’re more able to course correct. “The awareness and then planning for what else I can be doing, that might give me the same benefit of eating comfort foods,” says Gagliardi.
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.