If you were to search the internet for how to get rid of belly fat, a lot of supplements, quick “fixes”, and diet shams may pop up. The bad news, is that there is no one thing that’s going to magically get rid of belly fat. The good news, however, is that it is possible to reduce belly fat naturally with diet, certain exercises, and lifestyle changes!
We all want to feel great in that one pair of skinny jeans, but getting rid of belly fat is more than just a vain desire. Research now shows us that storing excess fat in the belly area is the most dangerous place of anywhere on the body. It’s linked to disease like insulin resistance (and diabetes), heart disease, stroke, and even some cancers (1).
Here are the top recommendations (backed by science) to learn how to get rid of belly fat.
Lower your stress levels
Stress makes us sick and slow. It also holds on to that belly fat with a death grip! When we are stressed out all the time, our body overproduces a hormone called cortisol. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol make us crave sugary and processed foods, which then increases our belly fat stores and insulin levels (2).
Stress and belly fat is a vicious cycle, too. Women who already have higher levels of belly fat actually release more cortisol under stressful conditions than others with less belly fat (3). This makes controlling our stress levels even more important!
Here are a few proven ways to lower your stress levels:
- Start meditating for a few minutes per day.
- Do yoga at least once a week.
- Add an adaptogenic herb, like ashwagandha.
- Try some deep breathing exercises.
- Talk to a family member, friend, or therapist about it.
But, don’t further stress yourself out by trying to do #allthethings. Start with one stress reducing activity that you enjoy the most, and add others slowly to your life as needed!
Take it easy on the alcohol
They don’t call it a beer belly for no reason! Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to increased belly fat.
Having three or more alcoholic drinks per day can cause you to store more fat around the belly area (4). You may be thinking, “I don’t drink that much every day, so it’s probably fine”. But, here’s the truth: even if you don’t drink at all during the week, those weekend benders may be causing you to hold on to stubborn belly fat.
Let us explain a bit more! In one larger study, people who drank small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis actually had lower amounts of belly fat (5). On the other hand, the people who only drank sporadically, but had 3+ drinks on these occasions had higher amounts of belly fat! Basically, if you’re going to drink alcohol, it’s better to have one small drink more regularly, rather than save up and then binge drink on the weekend.
What is considered drinking in moderation? For women, this is one drink per day. Here’s what “one drink” looks like:
Try high-intensity interval training
As much as we hate to hear it, there is no ONE exercise that just targets belly fat. We can do all the crunches we want, but this won’t do much on its own. Lucky for us, there is some pretty solid research about a type of exercise called high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for successfully finding how to get rid of belly fat.
HIIT is an exercise regimen in which you give one hundred percent effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short recovery periods. A large review of studies found that HIIT significantly reduces belly fat (6). Many people have even found success in reducing belly fat with HIIT without making any changes or reducing calories in their diet (7). This type of exercise also helps us reduce a type of fat called visceral fat. Visceral fat can accumulate around our organs, and is pretty dangerously connected to chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease (1).
How does HIIT help get rid of belly fat?
During HIIT, your body releases hormones, like growth hormone and epinephrine, that break down fat cells. As a result, you end up burning more calories and fat after exercise too (8).
Luckily, you don’t need to go “balls to the wall” every time to get results with this type of interval exercise. While high-intensity training is more successful in reducing whole body fat percentages, lower-intensity exercise actually has greater effect on getting rid of belly fat specifically (6).
Besides the metabolic benefits of HIIT, it’s also quick, convenient, and there is generally no equipment needed! So, no excuses girlfrand!
Limit the fructose
Sugar just ain’t our friend when we’re trying to figure out how to get rid of belly fat. Most people recognize that refined sugar is linked to weight gain and obesity. But, fructose is a main suspect when it comes to belly fat in particular.
No, we don’t mean the sugar in fruit! We’re talking about the condensed fructose found in fruit juices, pre-made smoothies, and soda (like high-fructose corn syrup). Some studies have shown that high fructose drinks can worsen belly fat if consumed in excess (9). Liquid fructose is particularly dangerous, because it is absorbed much quicker, and has a much weaker appetite suppressing effect than solid food (10). This is why we don’t encourage most bottled smoothies, either. A lot of these brands have high amounts of fructose, with very little protein, fat, or fiber to slow our digestion.
It’s most helpful to limit all sugar in general, but decreasing sugary beverages is especially beneficial to learn how to get rid of belly fat. Switch up your sugary drink for sparkling water, kombucha, unsweetened iced tea, or fruit infused water instead!
Catch enough Z’s
If you exercise regularly, eat pretty healthy, and still can’t seem to find how to get rid of belly fat, your sleeping habits may be to blame.
Sleep plays a crucial role in reducing belly fat because it affects hunger hormones, cravings, and even your metabolism. People who consistently sleep less than 5 hours per night are at a much higher risk of gaining weight, especially in the belly area (11). Sleep deprivation messes with our hunger and fullness hormones. Our hunger hormone (ghrelin) goes up, while the hormone that usually tells us we’re full (leptin) goes down (12). Basically, we feel super tired and constantly hungry for sugary and processed foods. Ain’t nature a b*tch sometimes? 😉
Fortunately, if we give our body the quality sleep it needs, it will love us back by letting go of stubborn belly fat, balancing our hunger hormones, and giving us energy to exercise. Here are a few tips to help improve your sleep quality:
- Avoid electronics at least 30-minutes before bed.
- Limit caffeine after 3pm.
- Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature.
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine (adults need this too!).
- Incorporate some type of exercise during the day.
Add some probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in your gut, fermented foods, and some supplements. Some research shows that incorporating certain strains of probiotic bugs may help to get rid of belly fat when in combination with other nutrition and lifestyle changes.
To find out how to get rid of belly fat with probiotics, researchers tested certain strains. Specific strains that have shown success include lactobacillus rhamnosus, lactobacillus gasseri, and lactobacillus fermentum. One study even showed that probiotics reduced belly fat by over 3 percent, and the dangerous visceral belly fat (around the organs) by 8.5 percent in just 12 weeks (13)! Scientists don’t know exactly how probiotics help with this, but suspect that it may be due to beneficial effects on metabolism and lowering inflammation (14).
Although you can take probiotics in supplement form, eating or drinking fermented foods is another great way to get your daily dose of gut bugs. Common foods that contain probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, raw cheeses, and kimchi.
The end point is…
Every person’s body is unique, and may respond differently to certain interventions – especially those regarding food, exercise, and reducing belly fat. We encourage individuality! Through the 131 Method, we created a blueprint that will help you find what works for YOUR body. Our phased eating approach encompasses all of these factors to learn how to get rid belly fat, have more energy, and most importantly, feel your absolute best.