Visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat, is the layer of fat below the muscles of your abdomen. Due to its crucial location surrounding many of your vital organs, belly fat supplies a constant source of energy but also exposes the body to harmful toxins and hormones. When you have too many fat cells or your fat cells get too large, they can overproduce toxins that increase your risk for chronic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This is why belly fat can be more dangerous than subcutaneous fat—or the outer layer of fat that you can pinch with your fingers. That said, the reason you're having trouble buttoning your pants may not be visceral fat: what we're calling "belly fat" these days could be bloating or water retention rather than a fat buildup. Read on for steps you can take to beat the bulge.
"Only doing abdominal-focused workouts, like crunches, won’t help you banish the bulge. Belly fat is simply where your body stores energy, so you need to take a whole-body approach to tackle it. HIIT training (high intensity interval training) is a great way to burn fat and get your heart rate up. Squats, burpees and treadmill sprints are all examples to try."
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Abs are made in the kitchen. Unfortunately, if you regularly eat ultra-processed foods (think chips, store-bought baked goods, and candy), you won’t be able to see yours. “These foods are produced using sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, which in high amounts has been shown to promote visceral fat accumulation in the liver, leading to weight gain, inflammation, and related diseases,” explains Rachel Fine, RD, owner of To The Pointe Nutrition.
Spending more time in the kitchen can help you shed belly fat, as long as you’re cooking with the right foods, according to one 2017 study. After analyzing data from more than 11,000 men and women, UK researchers found that people who ate more than five homemade meals per week were 28 percent less likely to have a high body mass index, and 24 percent less likely to carry too much body fat than those whole only downed three meals at home.
7. Zigzag your calories. Cycling your calories, also known as zigzagging, is the process of eating more on certain days and less on others. If you always eat 1,800 calories, try eating 1,500 calories one day and 2,000 the next. As long as you create a weekly deficit, you should see the pounds drop. Much like shocking your muscles into working harder by introducing new exercises, it’s possible to shock your metabolism by zigzagging your calories.
After your last training session (Wednesday, in this example, two full days before Saturday’s event), eat two to three grams of carbs per pound of body weight for the rest of the day. If you train at night and it’s hard to eat enough carbs before bed, you can split up the total and eat the rest of the carbs on Thursday night. Insulin sensitivity remains high for 48 hours post- workout, so glycogen will still go to your muscles. Otherwise, on Thursday, go back on the diet prescribed in Step 2.
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
But just because belly fat comes off a bit more easily doesn’t make it less dangerous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. “Belly fat is unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Dr. Cheskin. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it’s more active in terms of circulating in the bloodstream. That means it’s likely to raise the amount of fat in your blood (known as blood lipid levels) and increase your blood sugar levels, which as a result raises your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Simply take a good hard look at your diet, make a few modifications you can stick with and get your body moving. Not sure where you stand on diet? Write down everything you eat this week, then compare it to the list above and see where you could have made better choices. Don’t beat yourself up though, learning how to lose stomach fat fast is a process. Simply find areas to improve and work on them next week.
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Eat More Produce. Eating lots of low-calorie, high-volume fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that are higher in fat and calories. Move the meat off the center of your plate and pile on the vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or bowl of broth-based soup, suggests Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. The U.S. government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get 7-13 cups of produce daily. Ward says that's not really so difficult: "Stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables and at every meal and snack, include a few servings," she says. "Your diet will be enriched with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and if you fill up on super-nutritious produce, you won't be reaching for the cookie jar."
All workouts are created equal. Should you be focusing on high intensity interval training (HIIT), training for a marathon or getting on the bodyweight bandwagon to torch the most calories and fat? “The best exercise is one that you enjoy, and one that you will actually do,” said Lieutenant Commander Katrina Piercy of the U. S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the federal lead for the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Dr. John Jakicic, who chairs the American College of Sports Medicine Obesity interest group, agreed. “There is no perfect exercise,” he said. “They all count, and they all contribute in different ways. You might get something with HIIT that you might not get with yoga, and you get some benefits from yoga that you might not get with HIIT. It’s about moving, and it’s about burning calories.” So find what you can stick with in your life for weeks, months and years -- not just the first week of January. But don’t become one of the 67% of gym membership holders who never go; at around $60 a month on average, that’s wasting $720 a year.
"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."