What Is Belly Fat?
Belly fat consists of subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is found just under the skin. It’s the fat you can pinch. Visceral fat is found deeper in the belly, surrounding vital organs including the stomach, liver, and intestines. Visceral fat can cause health problems such as:
- Insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Breathing problems
- Increased risk of premature death
Women with a waist that measures more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches are more likely to develop problems due to visceral fat in the abdomen.
How Do I Reduce My Belly Fat?
Unfortunately, there is no way to quickly reduce belly fat. While fad diets may help you drop pounds quickly and possibly even trim inches off your waistline, most of that will likely be water weight and not belly fat and it will be temporary. Losing belly fat comes down to old fashioned diet and exercise, which are key factors in determining how much fat is in our bodies.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests:
- Limiting total fat intake to 20 to 30 percent of total calories
- Keeping saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent
- Limiting trans fats
Additional diet tips to help reduce belly fat include:
- Reducing sugar intake
- The body needs very little sugar and any excess is stored as fat
- Cut down on sugars in empty carbohydrates such as cookies, cake, and white bread
- Consume a plant-based diet
- Beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas (called pulses) are high in fiber and plant protein and help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce overall body fat
- People who consume whole grains lose more belly fat than those who eat processed grains
- Intermittent fasting
- Based on the concept that humans were designed to eat for short periods of time followed by hours (and sometimes days) of fasting
- There are no food or caloric restrictions, but restrictions on WHEN to eat
- Popular methods include 16/8 (8 hours of eating followed by 16 hours of fasting), the “Eat-Stop-Eat” method (two 24-hour fasts per week on non-consecutive days); and the 5/2 method (only 500 calories for 2 non-consecutive days, and 5 days of normal eating per week)
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to help reduce belly fat
Exercise also plays a role in losing body fat and diet plus exercise works best to reduce belly fat. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found people who exercised regularly were able to prevent belly fat gain, or lose belly fat, compared to those who didn’t exercise. The study found that just 30 minutes of walking, 6 days per week was enough to prevent accumulation of belly fat. Exercising longer, rather than harder, worked best to lose more belly fat.
The best exercise regimen for fat loss includes both aerobic and strength exercises (resistance training). High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE), is a type of cardiovascular exercise that alternates between short bouts of high-intensity and low-intensity exercise. HIIT usually alternates between slower to moderate-intensity and high-intensity movements. The Obesity Reviews Journal reviewed 13 different studies on overweight adults and found that HIIT reduced weight and waist circumference.