If you’ve done a million crunches and see no reduction in your stomach fat, you are not alone. Many people make the mistake of thinking exercises that target the stomach are the key to losing stomach fat for good. While exercise is important for overall health and wellness -- and it helps reduce overall body fat, which will show in your stomach too -- there are other things you can do to slim down your waistline.
Kick the Sugar to Lose Stomach Fat
Eighty percent of the battle against stomach fat is a healthy diet, according fitness and nutrition expert Jennifer Cohen on Forbes.com. It’s especially beneficial to cut out sugar and sweetened beverages. Sugar is not only full of empty calories with no nutrients; it also spikes your blood sugar, which in turn dramatically increases your insulin levels. When your insulin levels surge, that can cause you to store more fat, especially in the stomach area. Look at labels and avoid any foods with the words sugar, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey and molasses in the ingredient list. Better yet, eat whole foods that aren’t packaged and don’t require an ingredient list at all.
Eat More Protein
Protein may not target your stomach fat directly, but it's an essential nutrient for overall weight loss. Getting enough protein during the day can boost metabolism, reduce cravings and increase satiety. According to a study in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2005, increasing your protein intake from 15 percent of calories to 30 percent helps regulate leptin -- a hormone responsible for letting you know when you're full -- which can lead to decreased calorie intake during the day and subsequent weight loss.
Another study, published in “Nutrition & Metabolism” in 2012, found that eating high-quality protein was particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat. Good sources of protein include lean meats like lean beef, chicken, turkey and eggs.
Reduce Your Stress to Slim Down
When you’re stressed, your body sends out cortisol, a hormone that influences all facets of your stress response. Cortisol regulates glucose levels, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, immune responses, blood pressure, inflammation and the contraction of your heart and blood vessels. When you have high levels of stress, you also have chronically high levels of cortisol. Over time, these high levels of cortisol can contribute to an increase in stomach fat, so managing your stress levels can help you trim your tummy. You may have to experiment to find what works best for you, but methods include meditation, yoga, deep breathing, journal writing and drawing.
Increase Your Vitamin C Intake
Vitamin C helps balance cortisol, so in addition to engaging in stress reduction techniques, it’s a good idea to increase your intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C also helps produce carnitine, a compound the body needs to convert fat into energy. You can take supplements if you need to, but it’s generally best to get nutrients directly from food whenever possible. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit; bell peppers; kale; broccoli; and kiwi fruit. The current recommendation for vitamin C is 75 milligrams per day for women and 90 milligrams for men.
Vitamin C is not the only nutrient depleted by stress, however. Stress may also increase your needs for the B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium. If you're under chronic stress, it may be a good idea to take a high-quality multivitamin that includes all of the vitamins and minerals. Adaptogens -- herbal formulas that help reduce stress and rebalance the body -- may also be helpful in reducing cortisol levels. Adaptogens include ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil and licorice root. Work with your doctor or a qualified nutrition professional to design a supplement regimen that's right for you.
- DrMarkHyman.com: 7 Ways to Permanently Banish Belly Fat
- Today's Dietitian: Cortisol — Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy
- Yale News: Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal Fat in Otherwise Slender Women, Study Conducted at Yale Shows
- Psychoneuroendocrinology: Chronic stress increases vulnerability to diet-related abdominal fat, oxidative stress, and metabolic risk
- Forbes.com: 6 Ways to Burn Your Belly Fat Fast
- Fox News: 7 Tips to Reduce Belly Fat
- AuthorityNutrition.com: 6 Proven Ways to Lose Belly Fat
- Nutrition and Metabolism: Quality Protein Intake is Inversely Related with Stomach Fat
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Nova Magazine: The Stress Cycle