Toning your abdominal muscles is a key element of any workout, but toning alone will not reduce the appearance of belly fat. In order to lose that stubborn fat around your middle, a regular routine that combines both cardio exercise and muscle toning, or strength training, is key. To effectively burn belly fat you need to burn calories with moderate to high-intensity full-spectrum workouts and eat a diet that is high in lean proteins and complex carbs and low in simple carbs and "bad" fats.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention you should spend at least 150 minutes a week doing moderate-intensity cardio in addition to strength training all of your major muscle groups at least twice a week. If your goal is to reduce your abdominal fat, you should either up the cardio intensity to a vigorous level for the same amount of time, or double the amount of moderate-intensity cardio per week and try to do strength training three to four times a week. As you build muscle mass your metabolism will increase and in effect you will burn more calories both when your body is at rest and when you're exercising.
Strong abdominal and back muscles provide your body stability in all motions and help you in day-to-day activities as well as during your exercise routines. Becoming aware of engaging your core muscles while you're working out and stretching can help prevent injury and improve your posture and form. Try to incorporate various abdominal-toning exercises such as crunches, twists, situps and the plank into every workout. Do three different abdominal exercises for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions for optimal gains in toning.
Following a healthy diet is also important to lose belly fat. Stick with small portion sizes; you will burn more calories if you eat multiple small meals throughout the day as opposed to eating fewer supersize meals. Get plenty of complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables and avoid simple carbohydrates, which include items made with refined flour or sugar. Eat lean proteins like fish, chicken and tofu, and avoid proteins that are high in fat. Replace "bad" trans fats and saturated fats with "good" polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
Losing the visceral fat that accumulates around your organs in your abdomen and the subcutaneous fat that is under your skin confers many health benefits. It lowers your risk of developing serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and gallbladder complications. Losing your belly fat can help you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. So, in addition to helping you to slide into your favorite skinny jeans, losing stubborn belly fat will help you lead a healthier life.
Based in New York City, Rebecca Jones has been a writer, reporter and researcher for more than 20 years. Her reporting and researching has helped inform the pages of Glamour, Giant, and Ladies' Home Journal among other publications. In addition to her professional work in the editorial departments of magazines, Jones is an avid poet and as yet unpublished fiction writer.