Whether we’re trying to get a flat stomach before summer vacation or we have more than a few extra pounds to lose, we all would like to lose some belly fat. While there is no way to specifically target belly fat when you lose weight, a general loss of body fat will help you trim your waist, and certain healthy habits can change how your body distributes fat.
The subcutaneous fat beneath your skin keeps you warm, stores energy, and cushions you from shock. Subcutaneous fat makes up the visible part of your belly, but a much more harmful type of fat lies deeper in your abdominal cavity. This unhealthy, disease-causing fat is called visceral fat. Keep reading to discover seven great ways to flatten your stomach and get rid of that unhealthy belly fat. [This article, “7 Great Ways To Lose that Stubborn Belly Fat” was originally published in NewsHealthWatch]
The problem with visceral fat (belly fat)
Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds your internal organs, such as your liver, pancreas, and intestines. While you can’t see it, this harmful belly fat affects your health even more than the squishy fat that sits just under your belt. Visceral fat is called ‘active fat’ because it acts as an endocrine organ, sending hormones into your system that increase inflammatory compounds. These compounds travel to your tissues and damage cells, leading to chronic disease. Excess visceral fat has been linked to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A general guideline to determine whether or not you have excess visceral fat uses a simple measurement of waist circumference. Women with waists measuring more than 35 inches and men with waists more than 40 inches have levels of visceral fat that place them at greater risk for certain chronic diseases.
If you have a high waist circumference, you may already be suffering the health consequences without realizing it. Excess visceral fat is a sign of metabolic syndrome, a condition also marked by high blood pressure, insulin resistance, obesity, and high cholesterol that often leads to the development of type 2 diabetes. Excess visceral fat may also cause asthma, dementia, gallbladder disease, gout, fertility problems, lower back pain, and osteoarthritis.
Stress and poor sleep add to the belly fat problem
If you’re struggling with high stress levels, your adrenal glands are releasing cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Cortisol activates the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, and it stimulates the movement of fat from other parts of the body to the abdomen. If you are trying to lose belly fat, then stress is your worst enemy. Symptoms of elevated cortisol include migraine, anxiety, depression, insomnia, difficulty focusing, and weight gain.
High levels of cortisol exacerbate the belly fat problem by stimulating your appetite. The stress response evolved to cause sugar cravings so that our ancestors could have quick energy in an emergency. When you give in to those cravings and eat high-carbohydrate foods, the body then releases insulin, which in turn reduces your cortisol levels.
If you are suffering from chronic stress, high levels of circulating cortisol and insulin create lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme that stimulates your body to store more belly fat. Furthermore, high cortisol levels can damage cells, causing insulin resistance and disruptions to leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that regulate hunger. When you are experiencing chronic stress, you might find yourself eating more without being able to tame your ravenous appetite. This extra energy may end up stored as belly fat.
If your cortisol levels remain high when it’s time to go to sleep, you may struggle to enter deep sleep. Not only does sleep deprivation worsen insulin resistance, but it also slows your metabolism. As your body fights to preserve energy, it slows down fat burning. The result is more belly fat. To manage stress and sleep better, try deep breathing, make time for breaks and hobbies, or talk about your problems with a friend or skilled therapist. When you make room for self-care in your hectic schedule, you’ll notice that you’re not only getting better rest, but your stomach is also flatter.
Keep insulin levels down to ‘starve’ belly fat
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps your cells transfer sugar from your blood to your cells. The cells then use this sugar for energy. If you eat a diet high in processed foods and saturated fat, are inactive, take certain medications, or have a lot of belly fat, you may develop insulin resistance.
When you have insulin resistance, your cells can’t take sugar from your blood as they should, and your body secretes even more insulin in response to increasing blood sugar levels. It’s much harder to lose weight when you have insulin resistance, because your body stores excess blood sugar as fat. Even worse, insulin tells your body to store fat, and high levels of this hormone will lead to fat distribution in the abdomen. Symptoms of insulin resistance include increased thirst, increased hunger, frequent urination, blurred vision, and headaches.
To combat the problem of insulin resistance, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. In addition, limit added sugar and saturated fats found in meat and high-fat dairy products. You can substitute polyunsaturated fats found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Also try to get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Finally, avoid trans fats, which worsen inflammation and insulin resistance. The best way to improve your insulin sensitivity is to lose fat from your abdomen. Once you have improved insulin sensitivity with healthy eating, exercise, and fat loss, you will create a virtuous cycle whereby your body will be less inclined to store belly fat.
Create a calorie deficit to burn away belly fat
Any diet plan that helps you lose weight is effective because, in one way or another, it creates a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit occurs when you burn more energy than you consume as calories from food. When you create a calorie deficit, your body uses stored fat instead of food for energy, and you lose weight. You store fat when you consume too many calories and don’t expend enough energy. In the simplest terms, you can lose belly fat by eating less, exercising more, or a combination of both.
To lose weight at a healthy pace of 1-2 pounds per week, you should create a calorie deficit of about 500-1,000 calories per day. Typically, women need 1,600-2,000 calories per day to maintain their weight, while men require about 2,000-2,400 calories per day. The number of calories you require is a factor of your resting metabolic rate (RMR), the number of calories your body requires when it is completely at rest.
You can calculate your resting metabolic rate using an online calculator and multiply it by your activity level to determine how many calories you need per day. While a calorie deficit of 3,500 corresponds to one pound of body weight, you should not create a deficit of more than 7,000 calories per week, as excessive restriction may cause nutritional issues and a slowed metabolism.
Consider weight training to increase lean muscle and reduce belly fat
When you lose weight, you will lose fat (and belly fat), but you will also lose lean tissue. Because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat when your body is at rest, you may slow your resting metabolic rate as you lose lean body mass. This will not only slow your weight loss progress, but it will also make it harder for you to keep weight off once you’ve lost it. However, if you add some moderate strength training to your exercise program, you can keep your metabolism strong as you build lean muscle mass. The best part is that weight training can help you to lose more belly fat.
A 2014 study showed that men who weight trained had greater success reducing waist circumference than men who only exercised aerobically. Of course, you’ll get the best results by combining strength training with aerobic exercise, so try to keep your aerobic activity levels at 150 minutes per week.
Green tea supplements: traditional belly fat burners
Like other teas, green tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but green tea retains many more antioxidants because it is the least processed. Green tea contains two metabolism-boosting substances: caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a catechin and potent antioxidant. While green tea contains less caffeine than coffee, the active compounds in this plant-based supplement may boost hormones like norepinephrine that help break down fat cells and move energy into your bloodstream.
One study showed that green tea catechins stimulated fat burning both during exercise and at rest. Another study of 60 obese people showed that those taking green tea extract burned 183 more calories per day and lost 7.3 more pounds after three months than those taking a placebo. If you are hoping to lose belly fat, a green tea supplement might be a good option. If you’re looking for another reason to take green tea supplements, you can also boost your immune system with the antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids contained in the leaves of this helpful plant.
Chromium for generalized weight loss and belly fat reduction
Chromium is a trace mineral that is involved in protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism. Known for its ability to help control blood sugar, chromium also facilitates the uptake of amino acids and glucose by muscle cells. Because it supports your muscle tissues, supplementing with chromium picolinate can help you to maintain lean muscle mass as you lose weight. The end result will be a faster metabolism and less belly fat. Chromium picolinate is a salt created from chromium to enhance the bioavailability of this helpful mineral when you consume it as a supplement. You can also get chromium from food sources such as whole grains, seafood, green beans, broccoli, prunes, peanut butter, and potatoes.
Chromium also helps you to lose belly fat by supporting insulin function and reducing food cravings. Chromium is an essential part of a molecule called chromodulin, which causes cells to respond better to insulin. When cells pick up more glucose and smaller amounts of insulin are circulating in your body, there is less to inhibit fat loss, and you can lose more weight. While about 90% of American diets are estimated to be low in chromium, true deficiencies are rare. A good chromium picolinate supplement may help support insulin sensitivity and help you to lose that stubborn belly fat.
Advantra Z for thermogenesis
Advantra Z is known for its capacity to reduce food cravings and increase energy levels. This patented nonstimulant thermogenic agent is made from p-synephrine, an extract of bitter orange. Bitter orange comes from the Citrus aurantium tree, and is cultivated in the Mediterranean region. It is found naturally in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The fruit itself is considered too bitter to eat, but it is sometimes used in marmalade, syrup and juice, which also contain p-synephrine.
Bitter orange has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, and as an expectorant. In addition, bitter orange extract is consumed as a supplement for weight management, appetite suppression, focus, and energy.
Irwin Naturals, a Los Angeles-based supplement company, offers a fat-burning product called System-Six. This product contains Advantra Z, green and white tea extracts, yerba mate, guarana, spirulina, L-theanine, chromium, and B vitamins to help you lose weight and burn belly fat. Irwin Naturals promises to be a leader in the weight management category, and each liquid soft gel is designed to enhance bioavailability. Irwin Naturals products carry a promise of full transparency, with every ingredient listed on the label.
The secrets to a flat stomach
If you want to achieve a flat stomach, then one of the best methods is to make more time for self-care and manage your stress levels. The secrets to losing stubborn belly fat are simpler than it may seem. Eat a healthy diet low in processed foods and saturated fats, and get plenty of the good stuff, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can also try weight management supplements like green tea, chromium, or Advantra Z.
A proven brand like Irwin Naturals offers System-Six and a wide selection of other helpful supplements that might help you to finally lose that stubborn belly fat. The best way to sustain a healthy weight loss once you’ve achieved your goal is to keep your metabolism revved with a strength training routine. With a little persistence and some healthy practices, you can have that flat stomach you’ve always dreamed of and find your highest confidence ever.
Forbes: 5 Ways To Lose Belly Fat, According To Experts
Mayo Clinic: Belly fat in women: Taking — and keeping — it off
Cleveland Clinic: 10 Ways To Get Rid of Belly Fat for Good
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.