Spare tire. Meno-pot. Love handles. Belly fat is a common problem, which is why we have so many different names for it. But no matter what you choose to call it, you’d probably love to get rid of that excess fat around your stomach and also in losing some weight.
And while your goal of tightening up your tummy may be driven largely by aesthetics, the truth is it’s good for your health too. Weight gain in the abdominal region is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Much of the fat we store in our abdominal region, after all, is visceral fat: the dangerous, inflammatory fat that surrounds our organs and is linked to inflammation and insulin resistance. By shedding this fat, not only do we look better, but we can also reverse disease states like fatty liver, gout, high triglycerides and diabetes.
Ridding yourself of that excess belly fat isn’t as hard as you think, either.
Here are five strategies that will help target your tummy:
1. Watch out for hgh Glycemic Index carbs.
A food’s Glycemic Index (GI) is a rating of how quickly that food will cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Carbohydrates with a high GI – such as white rice, soda pop and candy – cause a spike in our blood sugar and insulin levels, whereas carbs with a low GI, such as whole grains, legumes and berries, are slowly digested and absorbed, for a much more gradual and blunted increase in our blood sugar and insulin. Since insulin is a fat-storing hormone, avoiding foods that spike it will help lower the likelihood of calories being stored as belly fat.
Your food’s GI isn’t the whole story, though. You also need to consider Glycemic Load (GL). GL takes into consideration the GI rating of a carbohydrate, but it also factors in the quantity that you’re consuming. After all, we eat foods in varying portion sizes, which will affect the amount of sugar that ultimately reaches your blood. For instance, say you consume two cups of legumes: the legumes may have a low GI but the GL of the meal will be high because you ate too large of a portion. Following the same logic, if you choose to indulge in a high-GI dessert but only have a sliver, the GL will be low because you limited yourself to a small portion size.
The bottom line, then, is to choose carbohydrates with low GI ratings and to be mindful of the portions you choose – the dose, after all, makes the poison.
2. Be conscious of calories.
Our genetics and activity level determine the number of calories we burn in a day. If you consume more than you burn, you’ll store the excess as fat – and where you store that fat depends on your sex, age and body type. Men, women who have reached menopause, and people with apple-shaped bodies (thin limbs and heavier midsections, and a waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.8) tend to store excess calories as belly fat.
To find out how many calories you burn in a day, you can use an online site such as BMR Calculator – once you enter your age, sex, height and weight, it will estimate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the number of calories you burn at rest. You’ll then choose your appropriate activity level, and voila! You’re given the number of calories you burn in a day. If you’re consistently consuming more calories than this number, you’re going to gain weight. The good news, though, is that belly fat is much easier to lose than the stubborn subcutaneous fat on our hips, buttocks and thighs.
Not only does exercising help you burn more calories than you consume, it does wonders for increasing insulin sensitivity as well. As we age, our cells become more resistant to insulin; this in turn forces our pancreas to pump out more and more of the hormone. Since insulin is a belly fat-storing hormone, this insulin resistance leads to weight gain. By exercising regularly, though, we can reverse it. In fact, the more we participate in cardio and weight training exercises, the more sensitive our cells become to insulin – so we can get away with making much less of it. Lower insulin levels mean less belly fat. Further, when we increase our muscle mass, we boost our metabolism, which can combat the inevitable decrease that happens with aging.
4. Stop stressing.
When you stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol. Cortisol’s job is to release sugar into your blood. Why? Because your body anticipates that you’re going to need energy to deal with the source of that stress – be it fighting an intruder, escaping an animal attack, etc. Whereas these may have been sources of stress in historic times, though, nowadays our stress is much more sedentary – it keeps us up at night and busies our minds as we sit at our desks. Since we don’t use the sugar that’s released into our blood to run, jump and attack an intruder, it is much more likely to end up stored as belly fat. And since what goes up must come down, the low sugar that follows the high causes us to search out more sugar, so we end up snacking on sugary treats. Focusing on relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, exercise and deep breathing will help you combat these cortisol-fueled sugar cravings.
Maybe you’ve already implemented the strategies above, but need some extra help. If that’s the case, try incorporating high-quality supplements with Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and green tea extract in them – both have been shown to aid in weight loss by accelerating metabolism and helping to reduce abdominal fat. Protein powder is also a worthwhile supplement, as increasing protein while decreasing the carbohydrates you consume will help shift hormonal balance to favour weight loss, as insulin levels will be lowered.