Many people see belly fat as a few extra pounds that are keeping them from fitting into their jeans, but belly fat is associated with more health risks than fat found elsewhere on your body. While it's true that you can't spot reduce or get rid of fat in just one particular part of your body, there are proven ways you can tackle your belly fat and tighten your tummy more quickly to cut your health risks and fit into your favorite jeans.
Dangers of Belly Fat
The extra bulge in your midsection is actually made up of two types of fat. Subcutaneous fat is found just under your skin, covering your abdominal wall, and visceral fat, which lies deeper and surrounds your internal organs. Visceral fat can lead to high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease or stroke and even an increased risk of breast and colorectal cancer in women.
While there is no miracle diet for reducing belly fat, there are certain foods you can eat that can help target the fat in your abdomen. Begin by lowering the number of calories you eat. Unless you consume fewer calories than you burn throughout the day, you will never get rid of your belly fat. Then, choose foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrate content. According to a study published in the March 2013 issue of the journal "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine," subjects were able to lose significant subcutaneous and visceral fat in just eight weeks by following a very low carbohydrate diet.
All types of cardio exercise will help reduce fat as long as you are burning more calories than you are consuming. There are, however, some exercises that have been proven to target belly fat more quickly and effectively than others. A study conducted at the University of South Wales in Australia found that high-intensity sprinting intervals reduced visceral fat with seven times less exercise time than moderate steady-state exercise. The study, published in the June 2012 issue of "The Journal of Obesity," found that you can get significant fat loss in abdominal, trunk and visceral fat in just 12 weeks by performing three sessions of 20-minute high-intensity intermittent exercise.
You may be tempted to spend hours doing crunches and other abdominal exercises to tighten your tummy but you won't see any results unless you first get rid of the belly fat through exercise and diet. Abdominal exercises will strengthen your ab muscles, but according to a study published in the September 2011 issue of "The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," they are not enough to reduce your body fat.
Even if you are looking lose your belly fat and tighten your tummy quickly, the Mayo Clinic warns against fast weight loss. According to MayoClinic.com, losing weight at a slower pace of 1 or 2 pounds a week makes it more likely that you'll be able to maintain your weight loss in the long term. If you are still determined to drop the weight quickly, speak to your doctor before starting a low-calorie diet or embarking on a new exercise regimen.
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Beneficial Effects of an 8-Week, Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Intervention on Obese Subjects; Y. Gu et al.
- Journal of Obesity: The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males; M. Heydari et al.
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat; S.S. Vispute et al.
- MayoClinic.com: Why Do Doctors Recommend A Slow Rate of Weight Loss? What's Wrong with Fast Weight Loss?
Kevin Charles is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor with more than 14 years experience working in fitness clubs as well as his own firm: My Favourite Trainer, based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has written articles on fitness and nutrition for various Canadian publications over the last 12 years.