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How to Burn the Last Little Bit of Belly Fat

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
How to Burn the Last Little Bit of Belly Fat
Woman measuring waist. Photo Credit GeorgeRudy/iStock/Getty Images

Once you've made progress and lost serious weight, you face the most frustrating part of weight loss: losing the last little bit of fat. You know it takes a low-calorie diet and committed exercise to drop belly fat, but those strategies don't seem to be working any longer. Deep visceral fat that expands your waist band responds positively to diet and exercise. Subcutaneous fat, the pinchable stuff that lingers on your belly once you're lean, is far more challenging to lose. You'll need to be even more committed to diet and exercise and, at some point, may wonder if it's even worth it.

Ultimate Belly Fat Loss

When your midsection measures too large -- greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men -- it's imperative you make dietary and exercise changes to reduce your risk of chronic disease. When you've dropped substantial weight with smaller portions, healthier food choices and a minimum of 250 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week, you want more. A flat belly that might even reveal a six-pack seems a possibility.

But if you're at a healthy weight, the last bit of belly fat is just a cosmetic issue. Subcutaneous fat is not as metabolically active as the deep visceral fat that you've successfully lost. If you're of normal weight, this fat that sits right under the skin is not considered much of a health concern.

Scrutinize Your Calorie Intake

As you lose weight, your metabolism slows down because it's supporting a smaller body. To lose the last bit of fat, you may have to reduce your calorie intake further. For every 5 pounds you've lost, you need 25 to 50 calories fewer to maintain your weight. If you've lost weight and haven't re-evaluated your daily calorie burn rate, do so. Use an online calculator or check with a dietitian to assess your current size, age, gender and activity level to get an accurate calorie burn.

Then subtract calories to create the deficit required to continue to lose weight. Remember not to eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day or face extreme deprivation, muscle loss and a potentially stalled metabolism. You might need to settle for just 1/2 pound per week of weight loss, with a 250-calorie-per-day deficit. When you do continue to lose weight, you can't designate from where it comes, though. You may want to lose the last bit of belly fat, but you may see your thighs and arms become thinner instead. Your body loses weight in a genetically predetermined manner.

Dietary Changes to Lose the Last Little Bit of Belly Fat

To get to the 6 to 9 percent body fat for men or 16 to 19 percent for women required to achieve super-flat abs, you'll need to invoke greater dietary diligence. The leaner you get, the harder it is to fine-tune your physique and get even leaner.

Trim portion sizes further and eliminate most sugar, refined grains, alcohol and saturated fat. Eating out at restaurants and in social situations is a challenge because you're sticking to a relatively restrictive meal plan. Your intake of protein may also increase slightly to help support the extra time you spend at the gym building lean muscle mass to raise your metabolic burn and support a taut physique.

Meals will contain of just one to two servings -- each about the size of your palm -- of lean protein, such as chicken breast, fish or tofu. Have 2 cups of fibrous, watery vegetables and 1 to 2 servings of unsaturated fats, such as 1/2 ounce of chopped nuts or 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, at each meal, too. Don't shun all carbohydrates, but limit your choices to minimally processed versions, such as brown rice or quinoa, and your servings to about 1/2 cup at meals and after workouts. Snacks consist of unprocessed options that always include some protein: A scoop of whey protein in milk, low-fat cheese with an apple or a hard-boiled egg with a side of carrots and celery are examples. All serving sizes at meals and snacks fit into your determined calorie allotment.

Exercise More Intensely and Often

The 150 to 250 minutes per week of exercise that leads to good health and prompts weight loss most likely won't be enough to get you to lose the last bit of belly fat. Increase your workouts daily to 60 to 75 minutes. Four or five of these sessions should be intense enough to have you sweating -- try running, cardio kickboxing or a cycling class.

Strength training is essential to leaning out and losing the last bit of belly fat. If you don't already strength-train, start with a modest two sessions per week and use your own body weight to target all the major muscle groups -- including your hips, thighs, arms, chest, back and shoulders. You need just one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise as you ease your body into the process. Crunches and other core work help build muscle under the fat you're trying to lose but won't make the fat to go away.

As you become stronger, incorporate weights and work up to three sets. You might also add in one or two more lifting sessions per week too. When lifting a particular weight for 12 repetitions is doable, it's time to go for a heavier one. Every few weeks, reorder the exercises or change them altogether to keep your body from hitting a plateau.

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