Belly fat is not just a problem because it can look bad.
In fact, having lots of fat in the abdominal area is strongly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
For this reason, losing belly fat has massive benefits for your health and can help you live longer.
Hike up your metabolism
Your ultimate goal is to hike up your metabolism, and the intensity of your workout, the fundamentals of your diet, how much muscle you have, how well you manage stress, and your quality of sleep all play a part in this.
Get your diet in check
Prioritise lean protein like beef, turkey, eggs, fish, chicken, and tofu. In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, participants were either assigned a 12 per cent or 25 per cent protein diet. While the first group lost 11 pounds on average, the high-protein participants shedded around 20 pounds and ditched twice as much belly fat as the low-protein subjects.
Limit foods high in refined carbohydrates and refined sugar (white bread, white pasta, white rice), and replace them with high fibre ‘complex carbs’ – think: whole grains, brown rice, sweet potato, oats, beans and pulses. Fill your boots with as many vegetables as possible – they’re low calorie, high in micronutrients, and the fibre in them will keep you full.
Snack on portion-controlled fruit, seeds and nuts. One study found that snacking on 42g of almonds per day (instead of munching on something high-carb with equal calories) helped to reduce belly fat and improved cholesterol levels.
Up the intensity of your workout
Focus on increasing physical activity and building muscle to burn belly fat, recommends Reddy.
When scientists from Canada’s Laval University compared a 15-week HIIT programme and a 20-week endurance-training programme, they found the former was far more effective at stoking up the body’s metabolism, which resulted in greater fat loss.
Balance your high-intensity workouts with weight lifting sessions and you’re onto a winner. Researchers at Harvard University followed more than 10,500 men over a 12 year period, and found that those who added 20 minutes of weight training to their regular cardio workout gained less age-related belly fat than those who pounded the treadmill.
Focus on compound moves like deadlifts, squats, kettlebell swings, lunges, chest presses, shoulder presses — exercises that work your entire body rather than isolating muscles. Simply put, you cannot 'spot-reduce' fat, meaning that endless crunches will do little for getting rid of your belly. For best results split your sessions over different days.
Learn how to manage stress
You don’t have to take a three-month sabbatical in Bali or enrol on a ‘breathing class’ in a Scandi Yogi retreat to find inner calm. You don’t even have to meditate (though it’ll almost certainly help). If a few minutes of deep-belly breathing in a quiet spot doesn’t chill you out, try a bodyweight workout or taking a walk around the block. Exercise boosts your circulation, transporting cortisol to your kidneys, which flush it out.
Get quality sleep
A study by the University of Chicago found that clocking up an average six and a half hours sleep can supercharge your cortisol levels and send levels of hunger-boosting hormone ghrelin sky-high – the perfect combination for effortless weight-gain.
When you’re low on Zzz’s, activity in the brain’s frontal lobe (the sensible decision-making part) is impaired. At the same time, the more ‘primal’ parts of your brain that deal with things like desire and motivation are lit up like the Blackpool Illuminations.
Inadequate sleep also wreaks havoc on your metabolism. When the body doesn’t get enough rest, it conserves energy by slowing down basic functions. —Men’s Health