The season for fun and sun at the beach or by the pool is officially upon us. However, while one should be soaking up the sun’s rays and enjoying some much needed rest, the obsession to maintain a fit and toned summer body, free of belly fat, can often get in the way of their health and free time.
That said, there are healthy ways in which they can reduce their belly fat. They can also keep a fit and healthy body throughout the summer months. It may be hard to believe but one can effectively lose their belly fat without the use of scary fad diets, endless amounts of toxic supplements and a thousand daily sit ups.
Furthermore, losing belly fat isn’t just about needing to look good at the beach. Excess belly fat has also been linked to a number of health issues. That said, we’ve compiled our top tips for how one can lose their belly fat and maintain their summer body in a natural and healthy way.
What is belly fat?
Belly fat is the fat found around your waist that offers protection and heat to the internal organs. This type of fat is also referred to as the subcutaneous fat and it also the one way in which the body stores energy and it also stores estrogen. This type of fat is normal and healthy. However, visceral fat is the type of belly fat that one should be extremely cautious of.
According to a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation, visceral fat can raise the levels of fat in the blood and it also elevates blood sugar levels. This then increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Thus, losing excess belly fat will help to benefit your health.
Healthy ways to lose belly fat
Losing belly fat in a healthy and natural manner doesn’t need to take the route of restrictive diets. Rather, implementing the tips below will ensure the loss of excess abdominal fat without comprising one’s health, or their summer.
Add more protein to your diet
Protein is a nutrient most commonly associated with helping to build and repair the tissues and muscles in the body. That said, when it comes to weight control and losing excess abdominal belly fat, protein is an essential nutrient. Not only does it make your body burn more energy, but it also helps to promote satiety. Additionally, protein helps the body build more muscle. In doing so, it serves to decrease the levels of belly fat in the body.
When you eat protein, your body burns more energy processing it. In doing so, it helps to burn off excess belly fat. The study did show the nutrient’s ability to reduce belly fat in individuals who regularly include protein-based foods in their diets (1).
In addition to burning off fat, protein helps to maintain satiety by encouraging the release of the hormone PYY(Peptide YY). PYY has been shown to reduce appetite and encourage satiety. According to one study published in the journal Obesity, increasing one’s protein intake helped to reduce cravings by over 50%.
Protein-rich foods include meats as well as legumes, nuts, seafood and dairy. If you follow a vegan diet, you can opt for healthy-high vegan protein foods such as quinoa, tempeh and nutritional yeast.
Avoid added sugars
Regardless of belly fat or not, added sugar is always a big no-no.
Sugar is part glucose and part fructose, however the liver can only metabolize fructose in small amounts. An excess intake of added sugars means that the liver cannot work through it. As a result, it chooses to turn it into fat, which then means more belly fat. Additionally, increased belly fat also leads to insulin resistance. This then comes with its own set of problems that include heart disease, fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, in being insulin resistant, it will be even harder to lose belly fat.
Aside from insulin resistance, foods rich in added sugars also increase your cravings for sweet comfort foods, which then add more fat to your abdomen.
Thus, the one way to trim belly fat would be to cut back on foods that contain added sugars. This also includes liquid sugars found in fruit juices and sodas. One study even found that beverages that contain added sugars increase the risk of both childhood and adult obesity (2).
Cut back on alcohol
When it comes to abdominal fat, what you drink is just as important as what you eat and the one thing you shouldn’t be drinking in excess is alcohol.
The term beer belly is as accurate as it gets as alcohol produces empty calories and all of those empty calories soon begin to accumulate around your waistline (3). If you want to reduce your risk of belly fat, try not to drink too much on your summer nights out.
Eat more probiotic foods
Probiotics are bacteria that help to regulate gut health.
To be found in certain foods and supplements, probiotics have been credited with not only improving gut health but also boosting immune function, easing digestion and and improving one’s mood. Additionally, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that probiotics may also serve to regulate weight loss by helping to reduce belly fat.
Eat light and eat green
You should not be starving yourself in your quest to get that fit and toned body. However, mindful eating is a practice that we should all be adopting.
Hara hachi bu is a Japanese style of eating that’s adopted by people living in Japan’s Okinawa islands. It should be mentioned that these islands are also considered Blue Zones – areas that were virtually free of disease and containing numerous healthy residents that are living to age 100 and beyond. Hara hachi bu teaches one to eat until they are only 80% full. In doing so, one doesn’t have to worry about counting calories and there is also a lowered risk of over-eating.
That said, eating light is only part of the solution as one should also ensure that they’re eating healthy as well. Consuming green leafy vegetables and nutrient-dense fruits can help to regulate your appetite, trigger feelings of satiety and reduce insulin sensitivity – all of which can contribute to loss of belly fat.
Enjoy more dietary fiber
As mentioned, inducing comfortable and healthy feelings of satiety is one way in which to prevent you from over-eating, which then reduces the risk of belly fat.
Fibrous foods, particularly those that contain soluble fiber, can help to reduce belly fat. When consumed, the soluble fiber from the food binds to water before forming a thick gel that helps to slow down food as it is digested. In doing so, it reduces calorie absorption and increases feelings of satiety, which then helps to combat belly fat. In fact, one study linked an increased dietary intake of soluble fiber to a decrease in belly fat (3).
You can get your soluble-fiber intake from foods such as avocados, legumes, blackberries and flaxseeds. Additionally, 1 gram dosage of glucomannan is a great fibre supplement and a 1 gram dosage, three times a day, will help to provide your body with soluble fibre.
Get enough quality sleep
As important as sleep is to our health, not enough of us are getting it, with the CDC revealing that 1 in 3 adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis (4). It is important for us to be getting at least 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night.
Poor sleep can increase the risk of depression and heart disease and may also add inches to the waist. How so? Well, sleep can affect your cravings, thus poor sleep will have you reaching for sugary snacks and foods which we know contribute heavily to belly fat (5).
It’s important to ensure that you’re getting enough sleep and if you believe that you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, then it’s important to immediately consult your doctor.
Lower your (refined) carb intake
Like fats, carbs often get a bad rep, however it’s important to understand that we need carbs for energy. The problem comes when we start to consume more fats that the body needs. When this happens, the body decides to store the excess carbs as fats and that’s why so many people then find themselves battling with belly fat.
That said, you don’t need to follow a restrictive low-carb diet in order to get rid of your abdominal fat. Rather, you just need to replace the refined carbs in your diet (white rice, white bread, pasta and pastries) with unprocessed whole grains, such as amaranth, farro, quinoa, and protein. In doing so, your body will use the excess fat found in your abdomen as a source of energy (as what happens during ketosis) and burn off your belly fat (6).
Monitor your stress levels
We live in an increasingly fast-paced world thus stress has become a normal part of our daily lives. However, the concern raises when that stress becomes chronic and elevates cortisol levels. This then increases the risk of heart disease, depression, diabetes and dementia. Furthermore, heightened cortisol levels also increase stress-eating and it encourages the storage of fat in the abdominal area.
Aside from losing belly fat, finding healthy and effective ways to manage your stress levels will also protect your overall health. This includes practicing yoga, meditation, and gardening.
Work out regularly
Granted, what you choose to eat can affect your health and body. Yet, the most important aspect will always be how active your lifestyle is.
- Stop relying on crunches: When it comes to exercises targeting abdominal fat, a lot of people believe that a hundred crunches a day is the perfect solution. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Whilst crunches are a good exercise, they don’t guarantee loss of belly fat. Crunches help build stomach muscles, but they don’t burn belly fat thus relying solely on those 100 daily crunches will not get you the results you’re looking for (7).
- Engage in more high-intensity resistance training: Also known as strength training, this form of exercise includes squats, walking lunges, weight-lifting, bench presses and deadlifts. It is advisable to strength train at least twice a week. In doing strength training, the body uses more energy and muscle power to perform them. In doing so, the body ends up burning more calories and fat. High-intensity resistance training also continues to burn fat and calories after you’re done with your workout.
The bottom line
There is no quick-fix when it comes to losing belly fat. Thus it is important to do away with restrictive diets and dangerous supplements. Honestly, all this will serve to do is jeopardize your health. Losing belly fat, or rather weight loss in general in a safe and natural manner, will also require commitment, patience and effort. That said, the above suggested strategies are a great and healthy way to start.