Fat can be found in almost any part of your body—and despite what social media may make you believe, it’s a completely normal part of human anatomy and is nothing to be ashamed of.
But some individuals, for a multitude of reasons, may be seeking to lose fat in specific regions, such as the stomach, where excess fat tends to accumulate when estrogen levels decline in one’s 40s, according to Steven R. Smith, M.D., the senior vice president and chief scientific officer at Advent Health Research Institute. “This fat is often simply a redistribution of fat to the abdomen rather than an increase in overall fat.”
Once again, your body—and stomach, in particular—doesn’t need to change if you feel comfortable, healthy, and your best. But if you’re considering attempting to lose abdominal fat, take these expert suggestions into account first. (And, of course, consult with a healthcare provider before adopting any of these practices.)
What Is Stomach Fat?
Essentially, stomach fat can take two primary forms: subcutaneous fat (the visible type just beneath the skin) and visceral fat (the type deeply embedded within your stomach that wraps around the clustered organs there). Although the first type of fat is easier to observe, the latter type generally poses a greater health risk due to its location in the body. With fat, it’s all about placement, and each fat “depot” serves a highly specialized function. “We previously believed that all fat was the same, simply a storage container for excess calories,” states Elizabeth Ricanati, M.D., a consultant to the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “But that’s not accurate.”
Fat, similar to muscle, is now understood to be metabolically active. It produces numerous chemicals, including hormones that indicate hunger or satisfaction to the brain. “Indeed, we now view fat tissue depots as endocrine organs,” says diabetes researcher Philipp Scherer, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Texas.
In other words, fat releases hormones that differ depending on its location. For instance, it is suggested by research that the hormones produced by fat in the thighs may offer a health advantage. “We don’t have all the specifics, but it is evident that the fat in the hips, and especially in the thighs, safeguards against certain health consequences of obesity, like diabetes, by generating substances that enhance insulin sensitivity,” explains Dr. Smith.
On the other hand, visceral fat is known to produce inflammatory substances that can, over time, heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colorectal cancers. (These 15 foods might help combat that inflammation.)
How to Shed Belly Fat Through Diet
To begin with, understand that it’s not possible to target weight loss specifically in your abdomen (or any other body part, for that matter), and there are no miraculous foods that specifically help in losing belly fat, according to Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., as mentioned in Shape. Instead, concentrate on losing weight as a whole. One study connected a reduction in body weight, subcutaneous fat, and intra-abdominal fat to following a calorie-restricted diet for 16 weeks, but calories aren’t the only factor. So, if keeping tabs on your calorie intake isn’t your thing, consider experimenting with these strategies to achieve your objectives.
When you drink water (or any other liquid for that matter), your stomach stretches, and specific neurons that perceive the expansion in the organ inform your brain that you’re satiated, according to Jennifer McDaniel, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D., L.D., a registered dietitian nutritionist and the proprietor of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy, as previously noted in Shape. Consequently, consuming water before a meal may lead to earlier feelings of fullness, she mentions. As a result, you might end up eating less during your meal, which could contribute to overall weight loss.
Snack on Nutritious Bites
Consuming modest portions of healthy snacks throughout the day can prevent you from feeling irritable due to hunger and potentially aid in weight loss, including the reduction of abdominal fat. Munching on healthy snacks can help control your appetite, thereby preventing overeating during your next meal, and also provide you with vital nutrients necessary for proper bodily function, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Incorporate Fiber-Rich Foods into Your Diet
Indulging in fiber-rich foods can help elevate your metabolic rate. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that women who substituted refined grains with high-fiber grains experienced a higher resting metabolic rate, which translates to burning more calories throughout the day. To gain these benefits and more, try incorporating fiber-rich foods and snacks into your daily diet.
How to Shed Abdominal Fat Through Physical Activity
In conjunction with adjusting your eating regimen, altering your exercise regimen could assist you in achieving your health objectives and shedding abdominal fat. Take these suggestions into consideration when devising your workout plan.
Go for Strolls
In addition to delivering cognitive health advantages, walking can also benefit your physical health by reinforcing your joints and muscles. Moreover, a limited-scale research study discovered that individuals who engaged in walking three times per week for 50 to 70 minutes over a span of 12 weeks experienced noteworthy reductions in both subcutaneous and visceral fat.
Don’t have a significant amount of time available all at once? According to fitness professionals, even brief intervals of exercise lasting as little as 1 minute each can still be advantageous. Simply ensure that you fulfill the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
Engage in HIIT Workouts
Following the completion of a high-intensity interval training (commonly known as HIIT) workout, your body will continue to burn calories, thanks to excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. After your workout, your body requires more oxygen in order to return to its normal resting metabolic state, known as homeostasis. Consequently, you expend more energy (meaning: you burn more calories) to accomplish this, as confirmed by the University of New Mexico.
Furthermore, HIIT workouts offer additional benefits. A small study conducted in 2019 discovered that individuals who engaged in interval exercises experienced greater EPOC compared to those who performed steady-state exercise. Burning calories through physical activity can create a calorie deficit, which can potentially lead to weight loss, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Conduct Resistance Training
In addition to fortifying your bones and sculpting your muscles, weightlifting can enhance your lean body mass, which intensifies the amount of total calories you burn throughout the day, as previously mentioned by Jacque Crockford, C.S.C.S., a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, in an interview with Shape. Strive to engage in strength training sessions for a minimum of 30 minutes, two to three times per week, and interchange exercises targeting the lower and upper body.
Give Core-Strengthening Workouts a Shot
Keep in mind: It’s unattainable to specifically target your abdomen for shedding pounds, so carrying out numerous sit-ups won’t take you very far in your journey. “Sit-ups only engage the muscles on the front and sides of your abdomen, but it’s crucial to involve all the muscles of the core to achieve more defined abs—including lower back, hips, and upper thighs,” states Lou Schuler, co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Abs.
To construct a sturdy core and potentially shed abdominal fat, Schuler suggests these core stabilization exercises based on a training program established by co-author and personal trainer Alwyn Cosgrove. “Core workouts like the plank aid in training muscles to stabilize the spine and pelvis so you can steer clear from back pain and enhance your posture,” mentions Schuler. “Planks also burn more calories than sit-ups because they involve more muscles.”
Give these three plank exercises from The New Rules of Lifting for Abs a whirl, and you’ll be well on your way to a more resilient core.
This maneuver is more demanding than a conventional plank because you’re upholding the entirety of your body weight on two points of contact instead of four. Consequently, you’ll need to engage your core more intensely in order to maintain stability.
A. Recline on the left side of your body with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and your legs stacked. Position your right hand either on your left shoulder or on your right hip.
B. Contract your abs and raise your hips off the floor to balance on your forearm and feet. Your body should assume a diagonal line. To intensify the maneuver, lift your right arm toward the ceiling and raise your right leg into the air.
Maintain this position for 30 to 45 seconds. Switch sides and repeat the exercise.
(If you are unable to hold the position for that duration, remain upright for as long as you can and then repeat until you have maintained the position for a total of 30 seconds.)
This sophisticated plank exercise involves dynamic movement of the entire body, utilizing the arms and legs, while simultaneously integrating resistance to strengthen your entire core. To heighten the difficulty, perform one push-up before returning to a standing position.
A. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands at your sides. Bend at the hips to fold forward, reaching your palms to the floor (flex your knees if necessary).
B. Keep your core engaged and your legs straight as you walk your hands forward to assume a high plank position.
C. Roll back onto your toes and bend your knees as you walk your hands back toward your feet. Gradually rise up, one vertebra at a time, until you return to the starting position. That counts as one repetition.
Perform 10 to 12 repetitions.
This plank exercise utilizes your entire core to maintain stability and amplifies calorie burn by incorporating movement (dragging yourself along the floor). It combines cardiovascular exercise, stability training, and strength training all into one single exercise.
A. Locate a stretch of floor that allows you to move forward for 10 to 20 yards and find something that will effortlessly slide over the surface with minimal friction. Dinner plates or plastic bags work well on a carpeted floor, while towels are suitable for wood or tile surfaces.
B. Assume a push-up position with your feet on the slides, towels, or plates.
C. Walk your hands forward to the end of your designated path (aim for at least 10 yards). Rest for 60 to 90 seconds (or as long as you need to recover) and then repeat the crocodile walk back to the starting position. That counts as one set.
Do 2 sets.