Belly fat is the visceral fat surrounding the liver and other organs in the abdomen, close to the portal vein that carries blood to the liver.
This fat can be harmful to the body but proper measures can be taken to reduce belly fat. That said, spot reduction is not a practice that is recommended by HealthifyMe. However, we look at what one can do to reduce belly fat.
Table of Contents:
Causes of Belly Fat
Contrary to popular belief, people with a normal body mass index(BMI), but having excess belly fat, also face increased risk of the above health problems. Here are a few potential reasons for the accumulation of excessive belly fat:
Sugary food and beverages: Studies have shown a link between high sugar intake and excess belly fat. This is mainly due to the extra refined sugar added during processing. While excess sugar in any form can be harmful, sugar-sweetened beverages are especially problematic.
- Alcohol: Another possible cause for sudden belly fat gain is alcohol. Studies have linked the excessive consumption of alcohol to an increase in belly fat, with one study finding that men who consumed more than 3 drinks a day were 80% more likely to have excess body fat.
- Sedentary lifestyle: One’s activity levels also play a major role in the accumulation of belly fat. A study showed that people who performed resistance training or aerobic exercise for a year after losing weight were able to prevent abdominal fat gain, while those who did not exercise faced a 25-38% increase in belly fat.
- Stress: Cortisol, commonly called the ‘stress hormone’, is produced by the adrenal glands in stressful situations. While stress drives overeating, cortisol causes the excess calories to be stored as fat in the belly.
- Genetics: Similar to genes playing a major role in increased obesity risk, genetics may be partly responsible for the tendency of the body to store fat in the abdomen area.
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5 Tips to Reduce Belly Fat
In order to reduce belly fat, one needs to follow a well-planned routine. Here are a few tips that can help one reduce the accumulation of fat in the abdominal region:
1. Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep affects various aspects of one’s health, including belly fat accumulation. It’s a proven fact that people who don’t sleep enough tend to gain more weight.
Sleep deprivation leads to the increase in ghrelin levels and lowering of the leptin levels in the body, which is responsible for making you hungry.
Lack of sleep is responsible for metabolic and endocrine alterations, along with a reduction in glucose tolerance. When you’re exhausted, your brain’s reward centres rev up, looking for something to feel good about.
So while you are able to keep a check on your comfort food craving when you are well-rested, sleep deprivation may make you unable to resist temptations. This can cause a hormonal imbalance in the body and lead to weight gain.
A minimum of 7 hours of quality sleep every night is a must to keep one’s fat gain under control. The quality of sleep is as essential as the total duration of your bedtime. Read more about the connection between improper sleep and weight gain here.
2. Drink Enough Water
There is a positive correlation between water consumption and weight loss. Studies show that water helps the body metabolize stored fat efficiently.
Drinking water throughout the day gives you a feeling of being full and helps keep your appetite at bay. Sometimes, our body mistakes thirst for hunger, so it’s always advisable to have some water before grabbing a snack to check on what your body is actually demanding.
It goes without saying that water is the best ‘beverage’ to quench your thirst. Any juice or carbonated drink contains sugar that increases your calorie intake so it’s best to choose water over anything else.
A glass or two of warm water in the morning can help you in losing weight and belly fat and cleanse your system.
3. Workout Regularly
Exercising daily is proven to have helped with body-weight management. While that stands undisputed, there are various arguments with regard to the intensity of daily exercise routine.
However, your workout plans should be directly proportional to gender, age and BMI.
It is ideal to consult a personal fitness trainer before getting started on high-intensity resistance training.
4. Track Your Calories
Extra calories in any form get stored in the body as fat. It is ideal to keep track of the number of calories being consumed and burnt on a daily basis. This can help avoid fat accumulation in the body.
Calorie Deficit is a great way to burn calories. A 500 cal deficit can lead to a weight loss of 0.4 kg or 1 lb in a week. You can use the calorie tracker available on the HealthifyMe app for the same.
5. Never Skip Breakfast
Breakfast is hailed as the most important meal, as it provides the essential energy levels to begin your day. Skipping breakfast messes with your metabolism, slowing down the fat-burning process.
Additionally, on days you skip breakfast, you are more likely to make poor food choices throughout the day. Eating a healthy breakfast during the day helps reduce cravings and prevents excessive hunger throughout the day. Remember to make your breakfast wholesome and healthy by including natural foods such as eggs, oats, fruits and nuts.
4 Exercises to Reduce Belly Fat
Workout is a key part of almost every weight loss journey. Exercises that specifically target the abdominal area would go a long way in helping reduce belly fat. Here are 4 exercises that you can do to lose belly fat:
#1 Vertical Leg Crunch
- Lie flat on the floor with legs extended upwards and then one knee that is crossed over the other.
- Breathe in and then lift the upper body towards the pelvis. Breathe out slowly.
- Do 12-16 crunches in two or three sets.
#2 Bicycle exercise
- Lie on the mat, or on the floor and keep your hands either behind your head or by your side just like you would for crunches.
- Lift both your legs off the ground and bend them at the knees.
- Bring the right knee close to the chest while keeping the left leg down.
- Take the right leg down and bring the left leg towards the chest.
- Alternate bending the knees as if you are using a bicycle.
- Start by lying down flat with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.
- Lift your hands and then place them behind the head or keep them crossed on the chest. Inhale deeply.
- As you lift the upper torso off the floor, you should exhale. Again inhale when you get back down and then exhale as you come up.
- If you are a beginner, start by doing 10 crunches in every set. Each day, aim to complete two to three sets of crunches.
#4 Bird dog
- Put your weight on your hands and toes while bending your knees to take a tabletop position. Squeeze your core to keep your spine straight.
- Raise your left arm to reach straight forward, while simultaneously raising your right leg and stretching it out.
- Hold for a count, squeezing your core, before returning to the original position.
- Repeat the movement with your right arm and left leg to complete 1 rep.
Let HealthifyMe Sr. Fitness Coach, Ashutosh, demonstrate how you can do some of these exercises to help you lose belly fat.
Belly Fat Loss Diet Plan
Eating the right kind of food is central to losing belly fat. It is ideal to follow a well-thought-out diet planned as per your needs and requirements.
We have put together a 1200 calorie diet plan to help you understand how you can go about planning your diet. However, it must be noted that a 1500 calorie diet plan is ideal for men, while a 1200 calorie diet plan works better for women.
That said, dietary requirements vary from person-to-person. Understand what plan works best for you by consulting a nutritionist, and choose your diet accordingly.
Lemon Cinnamon Water(1 glass)
Vegetable Sandwich(1 sandwich) Skimmed Milk(1 glass)
Watermelon(1 cup, diced) Almond(5 almonds)
Masala Khichdi(2 katori) Sprouts Curd Salad(1 katori) Low Fat Curd Kadhi(1 katori)
Green Tea(1 tea cup)
Boiled Chana(0.5 katori)
Chapati(2 piece) Palak Paneer(1 katori) Cucumber(0.5 cucumber (8-1/4″))
Skimmed Milk(1 cup)
- Start your day with a glass of lemon cinnamon water.
- Have a vegetable sandwich for breakfast, accompanied by a glass of skim milk.
- Follow that up by eating fruits and almonds at 11:00 AM.
- Have lunch at 1:00 PM. Eat two katoris of Masala Khichdi along with a katori each of Sprouts Curd salad and Low-Fat Curd Kadhi.
- Let the food digest with a glass of buttermilk at 3:30 PM.
- Drink a cup of green tea at 4:00 PM.
- Have half a katori of boiled chana an hour after that.
- For dinner, eat two pieces of chapati along with a katori of palak paneer and half a cucumber.
- End your day with a cup of skimmed milk.
Ensure that your diet is balanced, and that you are consuming as many nutrients as possible, while also ensuring you burn more calories than your daily intake. For a better understanding of how to plan your diet out for a week, take a look at a weekly plan here.
Foods To Help Lose Belly Fat
1. Have A Protein-Rich Diet
Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient for weight loss as it reduces appetite, overeating and cravings.
Protein-rich foods help speed up your metabolism making weight loss easier. Protein not only supports building muscle mass but even prevents muscle loss in case you are on a calorie-restricted diet.
Common protein-rich foods are black beans, lentils, yoghurt, cottage cheese and milk among others as eggs, lean meat, chicken and fish.
2. Reduce Carbohydrate Consumption
When we consume high carbohydrate foods, our fat storage hormones kick into gear.
Carbohydrate-rich foods such as white bread, rice, cakes and biscuits and sugary foods such as soft drinks, packed juice, and chocolates result in high amounts of glucose being released into the bloodstream on eating. In order to get this heavy load of glucose out of the bloodstream, insulin is secreted by the pancreas.
High levels of insulin over time result in fat storage, specifically around the abdomen. So in order to control the amount of insulin we have to manage our carb intake.
3. Avoid Trans-fat
When any type of oil is exposed to heat (from a flame or an oven), its molecular formula changes, and the hydrogen atoms are dispersed in the heat, causing doubling and tripling of bonds, resulting in ‘transformed’ fat. This is known as Trans Fat and is visible from the change in colour of oil from yellow to black or dark brown.
Any food item cooked in this Transformed fat, is called Trans-fat food. Unregulated consumption of trans fat-increases blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart diseases. It slows down the ability of muscle cells to use glucose as an energy source. When these muscle cells cannot use glucose, it stays in the bloodstream and making its levels rise dramatically, resulting in surges of insulin and increased fat storage, centred around the belly.
4. Eat plenty of soluble fibre
Soluble fibre forms a gel with water that slows down food as it passes through your digestive system. This type of fibre promotes weight loss as it helps you feel fuller for longer thereby preventing unnecessary food intake.
If you’re planning to switch to a high fibre diet, remember to do it gradually to give your body time to adjust. Abdominal discomfort, cramps, and even diarrhoea are common side effects if you ramp up your fibre intake too quickly.
Read more about food fibre.
5. Avoid Alcohol
The fallouts of alcohol consumption are exponentially high. One way alcohol negatively impacts your body is by increasing the risk of abdominal obesity. Alcohol consumption causes greater hunger and less satiety further pushing one to make poor food choices.
It further causes stress on the stomach and the intestines. This leads to a decrease in digestive secretions through the tract which is essential for healthy digestion. Alcohol intake of all levels can lead to impaired digestion and absorption of these nutrients. This can greatly affect the metabolism of organs that play a role in weight management.
5. Have Green Tea
Green tea is packed with nutrients and antioxidants that increase fat burning, help you lose weight, and boost health in many different ways.
This healthy beverage contains an Antioxidant Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) which boosts metabolism. EGCG can also make people consume fewer calories by acting as a natural appetite suppressant that helps you lose weight. Green Tea is also a great source of caffeine, a well-known stimulant that has been found to help your body burn both fat and calories.
Avoid adding sweeteners (such as sugar, honey, milk or cream) to your green tea if you want to best reap its benefits. The effect of the antioxidants in green tea may be strengthened when its consumption is combined with exercise.
However, like any other food and beverage, excess green tea consumption has potential side effects.
Read our article about the Potential Side Effects of Excess Green Tea.
The Dangers of Belly Fat Accumulation
In addition to the higher BMI, excessive fat accumulation in the abdomen area can potentially pose the following health risks:
- Heart disease
- Sleep apnea
- Colorectal cancer
- Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
One cannot reduce belly fat overnight. A long-term plan is the best approach to losing belly fat. However, following the above tips can take you one step closer to your fat loss goals. That said, it is ideal to speak to an expert before you get started on your weight loss goals. Speak to some of India’s best nutritionists and fitness coaches, and begin your fat loss journey.
Belly Fat – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What exercise burns the most belly fat?
A: Exercises that specifically target the abdominal area go a long way in helping reduce belly fat. Four exercises that you can do to lose belly fat are vertical leg crunch, bicycle exercise, crunches and bird dog.
Q. What are the 5 foods that burn belly fat?
A: A diet that is rich in protein and soluble fibre while being low in carbohydrates and trans-fats helps burn belly fat. Avoiding alcohol also helps reduce belly fat faster.
Q. Can Lemon burn belly fat?
A: Lemon is rich in Vitamin C that helps in improving your metabolism and antioxidants that flush out the toxins from your body. Lemons also have diuretic properties, which help in detoxifying the body, thereby helping burn fat.
Q. What fruits can reduce belly fat?
A: 7 of the most fibrous fruits that when eaten daily, have the power to reduce your belly fat are apple, tomato, orange, guava, strawberry, kiwi and avocado.
Q. How can I lose my belly fat in a week?
A: This is a very unrealistic goal as only a steady gradual approach with positive lifestyle habits on a long-term basis will help to achieve a reduction in overall body fat.
Q. What drink helps burn fat?
A: You can consume key beverages, designed to help you reach your health goals. A few of them are green tea, black tea, black coffee and apple cider vinegar drinks. When you take liquids regularly, it boosts your metabolism. Consuming these drinks can also help keep away the hunger pangs that make you binge on unhealthy junk food.
Q. Do eggs burn belly fat?
A: Eggs have gained a reputation for being one of the healthiest diet foods for weight loss. Eggs, apart from their rich protein content, have a nutrient called choline that is known to attack the mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. Include an egg daily in your diet and see those inches around your waist disappear!
Q. Does green tea burn belly fat?
A: Green tea can help you lose fat, especially abdominal. Green tea is rich in antioxidant contents, caffeine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) that stimulate fat burning through faster metabolism. Another way that green tea aids weight loss is by managing appetite which would make you consume fewer calories effortlessly.
Q. Is milk good for weight loss?
A: Milk has a good mix of fat, calcium and essential nutrients that provides energy to keep you active throughout the day. It boosts metabolism which catalyses weight loss faster and in a healthier way. Milk has a blend of good fat necessary for the body that lubricates bones and maintains a good muscle mass, making your body stronger from the core. Drinking a glass of milk helps you in countering dehydration and serves as a better alternative to sugary drinks.
Q. Does cucumber burn belly fat?
A: Cucumber provides an ample amount of necessary nutrients like vitamins C and K that help you lose weight. Cucumber has zero fat, low calories, and a negligible amount of sugar that will help you lose weight effectively. It is 90 per cent water; thus hydrates the body and controls appetite.
Q. Does banana increase weight?
A: Bananas are rich in carbohydrates and calories, which help gain weight naturally. Bananas are fairly high in sugar, which can turn into body fat more quickly than other nutrients. However, bananas are rich in their fibre content and control the hunger hormones that make you feel full for longer. Their sweet taste and creamy texture may also help reduce unhealthy cravings. Thus bananas cannot be directly linked to weight gain or loss but are linked to various other factors like portion size, time of consumption and lifestyle pattern.
Q. How can I lose fat without dieting?
A: There are many ways to lose weight without dieting.
- Drink enough water
- Get proper sleep
- Never skip breakfast
- Count your calories
- Workout regularly
Q. Can too much exercise cause weight gain?
A: Excessive high-intensity or long-duration exercise pushes your body past limits. This causes hormonal imbalance in your body leading to fatigue, reduced performance, and weight gain, especially around the abdominal region.
Q. Is a morning walk effectively for weight loss?
A: Following a moderately healthy diet and regular walking can help you get results faster. It also helps maintain the weight even in the long term. Walking is simple, and that is why you do not feel winded as you would after a heavy workout. Your joints, especially your knees and hips, get a good workout when you walk. It gives you more flexibility. Gradually, you can then start increasing your pace and walking duration. That will help you burn more calories. Your body’s insulin management gets better with regular walking. In addition, it allows you to shed a lot of belly fat. Walking can also help tone and define the muscles in your legs, calves, and buttocks.
Q. Should you walk on an empty stomach?
A: Going on a Walk in the morning on an empty stomach is one of the best ways to naturally boost your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.
Your blood sugar levels and glycogen stores are the lowest when you wake in the morning. Thus, burning off the little sugar and extra carbs you have stored in your body as fats is the fastest way to lose a few kgs.