12 Effective Tips to Lose Belly Fat (Backed by Science)
Belly fat is more than a nuisance that makes your clothes feel tight.
It’s seriously harmful.
One type of belly fat — referred to as visceral fat — is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions.
Many health organizations use body mass index (BMI) to classify weight and predict the risk of metabolic disease.
However, this is misleading, as people with excess belly fat are at an increased risk even if they look thin.
Though losing fat from this area can be difficult, there are several things you can do to reduce excess abdominal fat.
Here are 12 effective tips to lose belly fat, backed by scientific studies.
1. Eat plenty of soluble fiber
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system.
Studies show that this type of fiber promotes weight loss by helping you feel full, so you naturally eat less. It may also decrease the number of calories your body absorbs from food.
What’s more, soluble fiber may help fight belly fat.
An observational study in over 1,100 adults found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake, belly fat gain decreased by 3.7% over a 5-year period.
Make an effort to consume high fiber foods every day. Excellent sources of soluble fiber include:
2. Avoid foods that contain trans fats
Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated fats, such as soybean oil.
They’re found in some margarines and spreads and also often added to packaged foods, but many food producers have stopped using them.
These fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, and abdominal fat gain in observational and animal studies.
A 6-year study found that monkeys who ate a high trans fat diet gained 33% more abdominal fat than those eating a diet high in monounsaturated fat.
To help reduce belly fat and protect your health, read ingredient labels carefully and stay away from products that contain trans fats. These are often listed as partially hydrogenated fats.
3. Don’t drink too much alcohol
Alcohol can have health benefits in small amounts, but it’s seriously harmful if you drink too much.
Research suggests that too much alcohol can also make you gain belly fat.
Observational studies link heavy alcohol consumption to a significantly increased risk of developing central obesity — that is, excess fat storage around the waist.
Cutting back on alcohol may help reduce your waist size. You don’t need to give it up altogether, but limiting the amount you drink in a single day can help.
One study on alcohol use involved more than 2,000 people.
Results showed those who drank alcohol daily but averaged less than one drink per day had less belly fat than those who drank less frequently but consumed more alcohol on the days they drank.
4. Eat a high protein diet
Protein is an extremely important nutrient for weight management.
High protein intake increases the release of the fullness hormone PYY, which decreases appetite and promotes fullness.
Protein also raises your metabolic rate and helps you to retain muscle mass during weight loss.
Many observational studies show that people who eat more protein tend to have less abdominal fat than those who eat a lower protein diet.
Be sure to include a good protein source at every meal, such as:
5. Reduce your stress levels
Stress can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone.
Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage.
What’s more, women who already have a large waist tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress. Increased cortisol further adds to fat gain around the middle.
To help reduce belly fat, engage in pleasurable activities that relieve stress. Practicing yoga or meditation can be effective methods.
6. Don’t eat a lot of sugary foods
Sugar contains fructose, which has been linked to several chronic diseases when consumed in excess.
These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease.
Observational studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat .
It’s important to realize that more than just refined sugar can lead to belly fat gain. Even healthier sugars, such as real honey, should be used sparingly.
7. Do aerobic exercise (cardio)
Aerobic exercise (cardio) is an effective way to improve your health and burn calories.
Studies also show that it’s one of the most effective forms of exercise for reducing belly fat. However, results are mixed as to whether moderate or high intensity exercise is more beneficia
In any case, the frequency and duration of your exercise program are more important than its intensity.
One study found that postmenopausal women lost more fat from all areas when they did aerobic exercise for 300 minutes per week, compared with those who exercised 150 minutes per week.
8. Cut back on carbs — especially refined carbs
Reducing your carb intake can be very beneficial for losing fat, including abdominal fat.
Diets with under 50 grams of carbs per day cause belly fat loss in people who are overweight, those at risk for type 2 diabetes, and women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
You don’t have to follow a strict low carb diet. Some research suggests that simply replacing refined carbs with unprocessed starchy carbs may improve metabolic health and reduce belly fat.
In the famous Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest consumption of whole grains were 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consumed diets high in refined grains.
9. Replace some of your cooking fats with coconut oil
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat.
Studies show that the medium-chain fats in coconut oil may boost metabolism and decrease the amount of fat you store in response to high calorie intake.
Controlled studies suggest it may also lead to abdominal fat loss.
In one study, men with obesity who took coconut oil daily for 12 weeks lost an average of 1.1 inches (2.86 cm) from their waists without intentionally changing their diets or exercise routines .
However, evidence for the benefits of coconut oil for abdominal fat loss is weak and controversial.
Also, keep in mind that coconut oil is high in calories. Instead of adding extra fat to your diet, replace some of the fats you’re already eating with coconut oil.
10. Perform resistance training (lift weights)
Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for preserving and gaining muscle mass.
Based on studies involving people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease, resistance training may also be beneficial for belly fat loss.
In fact, one study involving teenagers with overweight showed that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise led to the greatest decrease in visceral fat.
If you decide to start lifting weights, it’s a good idea to get advice from a certified personal trainer.
11. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages
Sugar-sweetened beverages are loaded with liquid fructose, which can make you gain belly fat.
Studies show that sugary drinks lead to increased fat in the liver. One 10-week study found significant abdominal fat gain in people who consumed high fructose beverages,
Sugary beverages appear to be even worse than high sugar foods.
Since your brain doesn’t process liquid calories the same way it does solid ones, you’re likely to end up consuming too many calories later on and storing them as fat.
To lose belly fat, it’s best to completely avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as:
alcoholic mixers containing sugar
12. Get plenty of restful sleep
Sleep is important for many aspects of your health, including weight. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain more weight, which may include belly fat.
A 16-year study involving more than 68,000 women found that those who slept less than 5 hours per night were significantly more likely to gain weight than those who slept 7 hours or more per night.
The condition known as sleep apnea, where breathing stops intermittently during the night, has also been linked to excess visceral fat.
In addition to sleeping at least 7 hours per night, make sure you’re getting sufficient quality sleep.
If you suspect you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, speak to a doctor and get treated.