A flat stomach is one of the most enviable body parts for a woman. Marketers know and capitalize on this, promoting hundreds of products that promise to shrink your belly and give you six-pack abs. But you don’t need to buy pills or expensive equipment to get a flatter stomach. You don’t even need to spend hours at the gym. What you do need to do is have a consistent workout and diet regimen that is geared toward getting rid of stomach fat.
Begin with a healthy eating plan. Cutting calories through your diet is much easier than burning calories through exercise. The Mayo Clinic recommends cutting 500 calories from your daily intake to burn 1 pound of fat per week. This can often be done without too much inconvenience if you simply eliminate some high-calorie foods from your meals. If you want to exercise to burn those calories instead, it could take almost an hour of exercise a day.
Cut down on refined carbohydrates including rice, pasta and white bread and fill up instead on high protein meat, fish and poultry along with vegetables. A study published in the February 2006 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" concluded that high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are more effective for fat loss than high-carb diets.
Get rid of all the empty calories you eat and drink throughout the day. Sodas, desserts and high-fat or salty snacks such as potato chips or pretzels are full of calories but don’t offer any nutritional value. Replace them with protein-rich nuts and high-fiber fruits that will keep you full for hours.
Perform some kind of exercise every day. If you’re in a hurry to flatten your stomach, opt for aerobic exercise as your main exercise option. A study published in the December 2012 issue of the "Journal of Applied Physiology" concluded that aerobic exercise is better than resistance training for reducing fat mass.
Keep your cardio workout to about 30 minutes. While you’ll be tempted to do more cardio to burn more calories, you may be wasting your time. A study published in the August 2012 online issue of the "Journal of Applied Physiology" found that people who perform 30-minute cardio workouts actually lose more weight than those who perform 60 minutes of cardio.
Skip slow and steady cardio such as jogging, walking or slow cycling and opt for interval training instead. A study published in the November 2008 issue of "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) reduces abdominal fat much better than low-intensity exercise. Another study published in the June 2012 issue of the "Journal of Obesity" also proved the superiority of interval training, concluding that completing three 20-minute high-intensity workouts a week is all it takes to lose significant abdominal fat. HIIT workouts consist of alternating short periods of high-intensity exercise with longer periods of active recovery or low-intensity exercise.
Incorporate some resistance training to your exercise regimen. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends training each major muscle group two or three days a week using a variety of exercises and equipment. While it’s not as efficient for burning fat, it will help give you a flatter stomach in the long run because it will increase your muscle tone. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat so it will keep your metabolism revved and burning calories even when you’re sitting on the couch.
Go easy on abdominal exercises. They’ll strengthen your core muscles but they’ll do little to get rid of belly fat and, unfortunately, as long as you have belly fat, you’ll never see what’s underneath, even if it’s a full six pack.
- Mayo Clinic: Which is Better for Weight Loss? Cutting Calories or Increasing Exercise?
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effects of Variation in Protein and Carbohydrate Intake on Body Mass and Composition During Energy Restriction: A Meta-Regression 1.; J.W. Krieger et al.
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Effects of Aerobic and/or Resistance Training on Body Mass and Fat Mass in Overweight or Obese Adults; L.H. Willis et al.
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Body Fat Loss and Compensatory Mechanisms in Response to Different Doses of Aerobic Exercise – A Randomized Controlled Trial in Overweight Sedentary Males; Mads Rosenkilde et al.
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition; B.A. Irving et al.
- Journal of Obesity: The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males; M. Haydari et al
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity: Stress and Obesity: The Role of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Metabolic Disease; Bose Mousumi et al.
- American Council on Exercise: Three Things Every Exercise Program Should Have
- American Council on Exercise: American Council on Exercise (ACE) – Sponsored Study Reveals Best Abdominal Exercises
- Fitness Magazine: How to Get Flat Abs: Your Ab Muscles Explained
- Boston Medical Center: Nutrition and Weight Management
- Write down your meals and exercises in a journal to track that you're meeting your daily goals. Drink water during your workout and throughout the day to stay hydrated. Begin all of your workouts with at least a five-minute warm-up to prepare your muscles and organs for the upcoming increased activity. End each workout with a cool-down to return your cardiovascular system to its pre-exercise state. Also include a stretch of all your major muscles following your cool-down. Stretching will keep you flexible and reduce your risk of injury.
- Always speak to your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program. Stop training immediately if you feel dizzy, faint or short of breath or if you feel sudden pain. Leave at least 48 hours of rest between resistance workouts to allow your muscles to recover and grow. Change your cardio and strength-training routines to keep your body challenged and to keep burning calories. Sleep at least six hours a day to reduce stress. High stress levels can keep your body from burning calories efficiently.
Andrea Chrysanthou began writing professionally in 1993. Her work has been published internationally by "The Cyprus Mail," MochaSofa and My Favorite Trainer, among other magazines and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts in journalism from Ryerson University. Chrysanthou is a certified fitness instructor and personal-training specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.