Summer is right around the corner. It’s almost time to cut loose and put on that new swimwear! For many of us, this means we’re running out of time to get our beach body ready. As if we needed further reminder, every other commercial on the television or radio lets us know just how close we are to the big events of summer.
The truth is, we should be working on losing unsightly belly fat for more than just a cosmetic reason. Belly fat can lead to some very serious health risks, especially as you age. There is no need to worry though. Losing those love handles and that belly fat isn’t as difficult as you may think.
What Causes Belly Fat?
Almost all of the fat that’s tucked into your waistline is known as visceral fat. Visceral fat is some nasty stuff. Visceral fat will dole out some punishment in the form of stress hormones while simultaneously increasing the number of cytokines in your body. Cytokines affect the amount of insulin that’s being produced in your body. If these inflammatory substances have their way, you’re going to be in a lot more trouble than not being able to fit in to that new, trendy swimwear! You may be at risk of diabetes, heart disease, or even some forms of cancer.
Belly fat is a direct result of eating foods that challenge your digestive system. If your body has to work extra hard to break down food, it can wreak havoc on the good bacteria in your stomach, causing inflammation and weight gain. Carb-dense or carb-rich foods are foods with a high ratio of carbohydrates in relation to the weight of the food. These foods are ones to stay away from when aiming to cut the carbs:
- Sliced bread
Eating Can Reduce Belly Fat!
That is not a typo! You read it correctly! You can turn your body into a fat-burning machine just by regulating what you eat, how often you eat it, and getting good sleep. Some foods can ensure you’ll get better rest and encourage weight loss. These foods help regulate your natural hunger pattern and promote healthy thyroid activity.
If you’re serious about losing your belly fat, you need to regulate your eating habits. Use the foods listed about to eat more often throughout the day. These foods have melatonin to naturally help regulate our sleep, high in protein and calcium to help us reduce the stubborn fat cells we’re lugging around, and are rich in omega-3 to promote heart health. Don’t have 3 large meals, have 7 or 8 small ones. The idea is to not get hungry. Our bodies are completely out of whack when compared to the natural internal clocks we carry. We stay up too late, due to artificial lighting and visual stimulants, resulting in more opportunity to snack or eat when we otherwise wouldn’t be. On top of that, we condense all of our meal times into just three “square” meals a day. This is unhealthy by nature and leads to unnecessary weight gain, especially when it comes to our midsection.
Take the Long Way Home
Visceral belly fat is weak. Yeah, I said it. It caves easily when it’s pressured. What I mean is, you can easily beat it down. Thankfully, visceral belly fat is no match for exercise. Some areas of the body are less forgiving, but belly fat begins to melt away in as little as two consecutive days of exercise. This is the part that people often dread. It’s difficult to find the time to do the exercise we need to do in order to see the results we’d like to see. In our unforgiving, fast-paced society, there are so many fires that we need to spend our time fighting, we rarely think to put our physical health in the forefront of our minds. If you are for one reason or another unwilling to set aside time to hit the gym or go for a daily walk, there are some things you can change about your daily lifestyle that will increase the amount of exercise you do and help you on your quest to best belly fat anyway.
- Take the stairs. Don’t use an elevator, if you can help it. Getting your heart rate up, even for this short period of time will do wonders for you on your quest.
- Bike or walk to work, school, or to the store. Don’t take the car, if you can help it. Think about how little time this would actually add to the different things you do every week. Chances are good that there are spaces in your life that you could feasibly bike or walk to rather than hopping in the car.
- Walk fast. Don’t mosey. Even if you’re just going to the bathroom or walking from one room in your house to another, walk faster than is comfortable. These little bursts of energy will increase the calories you’re burning by up to 50% and blast away at those visceral fat cells stored in your belly.
- Stand, don’t sit. This is one that most people don’t think of. Not only does standing boost the calories you’re burning, but it can lead to a longer life. On average, somebody who prefers to stand will leave nearly two years longer than somebody who prefers to sit. This was published in the BMJ Open journal.
- Make love. Sex is one of the best ways to exercise without meaning to exercise. One can burn up to 1000 calories during just a single session of love-making! Who doesn’t like that?
Hit That Snooze Button
One of the more overlooked, yet easiest, ways to reduce your belly fat is by routinely getting a healthy amount of sleep. Wake Forest University performed a study in 2010 that showed the importance of adequate sleep when it comes to lowering visceral fat levels. The fewer hours of sleep that a person got each night, the less visceral fat their body burned. The more sleep a person got, the more their body was willing to reduce the unhealthy visceral fat levels. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, consider doing some of the following…
- Drink water – Water before bed has been found to relax your muscles and relinquish the brain to the sand man. Turns out, your body likes water more than it does beer, wine, soda, or milk before bed time.
- Turn off the television – This is where many get in to trouble. Many people choose to watch TV until they can fall asleep. As it turns out, this leads to thought stimulation and provokes our brain to think when we no longer want it to.
- Listen to white noise – A fan or some radio static has a calming effect on our psyche. Such has been the case since we were children and will be the case until we’re in our golden years.
Wake Up The Same Time Every Day
Brigham Young University conducted an interesting study on the effects of chaotic sleep habits. If you don’t consistently regulate the 6 to 9 hours of sleep you’re supposed to be getting each night, you’re doing more harm than good. If you choose to sleep in on the weekends, it seems that your body will secrete the fat storing hormone of cortisol, as it believes it will need to go longer than usually without food. This will make it more difficult for you to lose that stubborn belly fat, not only for that day’s events, but it actually has a lasting effect for up to three days!
Best Exercises to Lose Belly Fat
It’s unfortunate, but the best way to lose that belly fat is always going to be through true workouts and exercise. You need to put the time and effort in if you’re looking to see results in a hurry. Almost all experts agree that the number one way to reduce fat around the midsection is through stomach crunches. While it may be annoying, it’s unlikely that you need to do many crunches each day to start seeing and feeling a difference. For a beginner, it’s recommended that you do two or three sets of ten crunches each day. This should only take about a minute of your time, so not having the time can’t be your excuse!
Some people may not find crunches to be the best way for them to lose their belly fat, for a variety of reasons. Back problems, pain from past surgeries, or neck problems may make it difficult for you to do the crunches. Here are some effective alternatives:
- Plank exercises. These are nearly as effective as crunches, but typically take more time to do. There are instructional videos for the various different types of planking exercises available for free on YouTube. The basic idea is to support your body on your forearms or elbows and toes, keeping yourself as straight as you possibly can. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to a minute at a time and you will definitely feel the burn in your midsection.
- Running/Jogging. Running is a very effective alternative to crunches. Running will result in fat burn throughout your body, not just the belly area. That said, you will see results in the belly area first, followed by the rest of the visceral fat that me be on your body. Getting a cardio workout for 20 or 30 minutes a day will make all the difference in the world.
- Walking, similar to running, is also an effective alternative to crunches. Walking will result in fat burn throughout your body, similar to running, but over at a slower pace. Walking might be the answer for older individuals or people with hip, knee, or foot/ankle issues. Walking for an hour a day will produce the same results as running for 20 minutes.
Limit the Bad Habits
Likely the easiest thing you can do to prevent adding belly fat is avoiding the bad habits. You may not want to hear this, but drinking beer, wine, liquor, and soda leads to carbohydrates running straight to your gut and increasing the visceral belly fat you’re trying so desperately hard to lose. Try to avoid these beverages, and if you insist on having a beer on your well-deserved weekend, make it an ultra-lite. Keep the wine to a single, small glass, and choose seltzer water over soda.
One of the bad habits that people have somehow talked themselves into is the over consumption of fruits. People believe that “fruits are very healthy,” which is definitely true… in moderation. You can’t replace snacking on potato chips all day with snacking on oranges, pineapples, and grapes and expect to see the results you’re looking for. While eating these may be better than scarfing down a bag of candy, they still are loaded in sugar. Completely avoid fruit packed in preservative syrup, as this is just as bad as swallowing sugar cubes. Try to resist the temptation of fruit juice that isn’t freshly squeezed. Snacking on fresh fruit is acceptable and definitely a healthy alternative to a bag of chips, but don’t go overboard. Mix in some nuts and veggies!
Dried fruit snacks are my kryptonite. I’ve somehow convinced myself that this is better than my favorite bag of salt and vinegar chips. In most scenarios, this is simply not the case. Dried fruit snacks are often loaded with the same sugars the blended fruit drinks or juices contain. Eating a packet of dried bananas, for instance, is actually equal to consuming 5 fresh bananas. Does it take you five bananas to satisfy your stomach? Didn’t think so. Not all dried fruit snacks are alike. Short-shelf-life snacks are a better go-to, though still not as beneficial as fresh fruits or veggies.
Eat before bed. No, seriously. Make sure you’re not hungry when you go to sleep. I know that the common thought is that you shouldn’t eat before you fall asleep at night. The truth is, you definitely can. In fact, you SHOULD. There is a common theme here: moderation. You may have found that if you go to sleep with an empty stomach, you wake up without any sort of hunger. This is because your body has decided to go into a power-save mode. It believes food might be scarce and starts to conserve, leading to a reduction in metabolism. On the contrary, you may have noticed that if you go to sleep on a relatively full stomach, you wake up starving. Your body has sped up your metabolism and released hormones to trigger the hunger pains. Both of these scenarios are equally bad as each lead to an increase in belly fat, especially if this is a regular occurrence. You should eat about 30 minutes before you decide it’s time to go to sleep for the night. Have a small snack of air-popped popcorn or a couple handfuls of mixed nuts with your water. This will jump-start your metabolism leading to visceral fat burn while you sleep and you won’t feel like you haven’t eaten in two days when you wake up.
Try to avoid typical weight loss drugs available. There are all sorts of pills out on the market that claim to help shape your body or assist with weight loss. The truth is, many of these drugs haven’t had thorough testing completed and result in quite a few long-term side effects that everybody would find unpleasant but somehow choose to overlook. Rather than taking the bait and believing in these miracle pills, try some protein supplements to help curb the carbohydrate-rich appetite and maybe a heavily researched, high quality fat burner supplement. Increasing protein will also lead to some muscle gain, not just fat burn.
Put the Work In
For best results, we all need to put the work in. Some people may find it easier than others, but we all can have that ripped summer body that we deserve. It comes down to motivation and small life-style changes. Even if you don’t have the time to dedicate to working out, there is no reason why you can’t change some of your eating habits or take little steps to improve your daily physical activity. Don’t be afraid. Go get it!