Here’s something to cheer you up. The perfect six packs or a model body you’ve always desired is neither a myth nor something so difficult to achieve. As a matter of fact, you already have it – yes, right under your belly fat!
Okay, so how do you take off the belly fat or any other fat for that matter? It’s simply by reducing your overall body fat percentage. And there are some easy ways to achieve this, as you will soon find out. But first, aside from having a shapely figure, there are countless health benefits to lowering your body fat percentage.
The first one is living longer. The more prominent the body fat percentage is, the lower a person’s life expectancy. Being overweight naturally increases the chance of dying from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis, and some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon).
But then, losing weight won’t just help you live longer, it will also help you get more enjoyment out of the long life you have. Several studies have shown that losing weight enhances your mood and positivity, improves your libido, optimizes your mental faculty and reduces spending on unhealthy habits.
Now, back to the steps to reducing body fat. The most important of these are steady exercise and eating healthy. In addition to these or to further break these down, consider the following:
- Cut down your day to day intake of calories
When you’re trying to lose body fat, one effective secret is to stop taking so many calories – especially those in high-sugar, nutrient-light drinks. People who replaced their daily can of sugar with the same amount of water lowered their total day to day liquid calorie consumption from 15% to 9%, according to a research from Virginia Tech in the UK, which is almost down to the 9% limit of liquid calories recommended by medical experts.
For example, a bottle of coke can contain around 40g of sugar, which is enough to send your blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster, and making you crave for more sugar. Sweeteners in drinks have been shown to enhance hunger levels so you consume more, according to Western Sydney University. This means that the best drink you can take is water or soda water. It is calorie free, you can add fruit wedges for flavour.
But it’s not just bottle of coke you should watch out for. A glass of orange juice, for instance, contains more sugar per glass than the usual drink, but replacing it with an actual, delicious orange not only cut down the calorie count but also brings in all the other nutrients typically stripped out during the process of extracting the juice.
- Get enough sleep
When it comes to getting enough, “six to seven hours is the target,” says fitness expert Alex Crockford. “When your entire structure is at rest is when your muscles grow and recover after exercise,” he adds. If you’re training everyday but sleeping little, you may burn yourself out and end up getting more pounds.
- Go for a workout twice or thrice a week
According to Crockford, a typical go-to fat torching drill goes this way: Set a timer for three minutes. Do five pull-ups, 10 box jumps, 15 thrusters, 20 kettle bell swings and then as many reps as possible of good-form burpees until the time is up. Rest 60 seconds, then repeat for between two and four total sets. “Keep a tally of the total number of reps you accumulate,” says Crockford. “This is your score. Next time round, beat it.”
- Eat more food
Yes, you read that right. The key, though, is to eat healthily. “Add two fistfuls of green veg to every meal,” says Precision Nutrition’s Brian St-Pierre. They’re nutrient-dense but low on calories – so they’ll fill you up without being fattening, and keep you healthy.
- Drink a cup of water with every meal
This is very important. It’ll keep your body hydrated and full, and keep your metabolism in top shape. Drink one glass of water 30 minutes before a meal to help digestion. Remember not to drink too soon before or after a meal as the water will dilute the digestive juices. Drink water an hour after the meal to allow the body to absorb the nutrients
- Enjoy eating outside
Home-made meals are good but once in a while, enjoy going to the eatery to get some nice steamed chicken breast. As long as you’re getting a decent hit of protein and green vegetables, other days you can cook inside.
- Get stronger
Not everyone’s first priority, but lifting more weight will make any workout more intense. By adding 1.5kg worth of muscle to your body you have the potential to burn 1,050 extra calories a week, according to a study by the University of Michigan. Aim to progress in big, compound lifts like the power clean and squat, and every workout becomes a fat-burner.
- Slow it down
Low-intensity steady state cardio (LISS) lowers the stress hormone, which is great as cortisol turns you into a fat-storage unit. Plus, a long slow jog will burn more calories than a short, sharp circuit. Even better, LISS can act as active recovery the day after an intense session so you get the best of both worlds.
- Get a taste for spicier food
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chilli peppers their heat, will also play merry havoc on your metabolism. Add paprika to your home-made burgers – you, uh, do make them from scratch, right? – and turn them into a fat-burning feast.
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- Drink plenty milk
There are some evidence that calcium deficiency could slow metabolism. A pint of whole milk contains two-thirds of your RDI of calcium, and people who get enough of this mineral are leaner than those who don’t, according to the British Journal of Nutrition. Research has shown that consuming calcium through dairy foods like low fat yoghurt or fat-free cheese could also contribute to reducing fat absorption from other food sources.
- Increase your vitamin D levels
This doesn’t include sitting in the sun for hours on end. Vitamin D absorbed from food is essential for the preservation of muscle tissue. You can get 90 percent of your recommended daily intake from a 100g piece of salmon. So eat plenty of fish, eggs, milk and cereals to get your intake up.
- Get your fibre on
Research has shown that some fibre can fire up your fat burning by as much as 30 percent. These studies have found that those who are consuming the most amount of fibre are gaining less weight over a period of time. It’s best to aim for around 30g per day – start by adding whole grains to your diet.
14. Add vinegar to your diet
Vinegar is well known for its health-promoting properties. In addition to its potential effects on heart health and blood sugar control, increasing your intake of vinegar may help bump up fat burning, according to some research
One study found that consuming 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 ml) of vinegar daily reduced people’s body weight, belly fat and average waist circumference over a 12-week period. Consuming vinegar has also been shown to enhance feelings of fullness and reduce appetite.
Another small study of 11 people showed that adding vinegar to the diet reduced daily calorie intake by up to 275 calories.
It’s easy to incorporate vinegar into your diet. For example, many people dilute apple cider vinegar with water and drink it as a beverage a few times per day with meals.
However, if drinking vinegar straight doesn’t sound appealing, you can also use it to make dressings, sauces and marinades.
15. Cut down on refined carbs
Decreasing your intake of refined carbohydrates may help you lose extra fat. During processing, refined grains are stripped of their bran and germ, resulting in a final product that’s low in fibre and nutrients.
Refined carbs also tend to have a higher glycaemic index, which can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, resulting in increased hunger.
Studies show that a diet high in refined carbs may be associated with increased belly fat. Conversely, a diet high in whole grains has been associated with a lower body mass index and body weight, plus a smaller waist circumference.
One study in 2,856 people also showed that those with higher intakes of refined grains tended to have a higher amount of disease-promoting belly fat, while those who ate more whole grains tended to have a lower amount.
For the best results, reduce your intake of refined carbs from pastries, processed foods, pastas, white breads and breakfast cereals. Replace them with whole grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, barley and oats.
16. Increase your cardio
According to several researches, cardio, also known as aerobic exercise, is one of the most common forms of exercise and is defined as any type of exercise that specifically trains the heart and lungs.
Adding cardio to your routine may be one of the most effective ways to enhance fat burning. For example, one review of 16 studies found that the more aerobic exercise people got, the more belly fat they lost.
Other studies have found that aerobic exercise can increase muscle mass and decrease belly fat, waist circumference and body fat.
Most research recommends between 150–300 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly, or roughly 20–40 minutes of cardio each day.
Running, walking, cycling and swimming are just a few examples of some cardio exercises that can help burn fat and kick-start weight loss.