Body fat seems so easy to add and so hard to get rid of. You try to work out and restrict your calorie intake, and yet the fat still refuses to go away. If this sounds familiar, rest assured that there are healthy options for effectively burning fat. While there's no guarantee that your fat will simply melt away (as many fad diet/pill/exercise ads promise), you can improve your health and appearance by getting your body working for you — and against your excess 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.
1. Don’t starve yourself: Cortisol—that stress hormone that causes your body to store more fat—is elevated from circumstances of high stress, including extreme dieting, Seedman says. “If you start dropping calories excessively, your body goes into starvation mode and it becomes stressed. You’re in caloric deprivation, but that elevated cortisol causes you to gain body fat in your stomach—it’s a vicious cycle,” he adds.
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.
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.
2. Eat smaller meals more frequently: “Insulin is probably the single most important factor that contributes to fat storage,” Seedman explains. This hormone is activated when you eat and responsible for shuttling nutrients into cells, either fat or muscle. A quick biology lesson: Every time you eat a meal, your blood glucose spikes, and when this goes up, so do your insulin levels. More calories at once means a larger spike in both. When these levels are sky high, it signals to your body to put nutrients into fat cells instead of muscle, causing an accumulation of fat, Seedman explains. The same thing happens when your insulin stays elevated for a prolonged period of time, which is why it’s important to let yourself become hungry before eating again, he adds. Aim for five to six meals throughout the day.