There are many exercises that can help you lose weight around your midsection. Exercises to lose belly fat for men should focus on more than just strength training. Men who want to lose belly fat should combine cardio, core and lifting routines to see the best results.
The Fat Around Your Waist
The fat around your belly may make you feel less confident. However, it may also be dangerous to your health.
There are two types of fat that can accumulate around your midsection. These are known as "subcutaneous fat" and "visceral fat." The type of fat you have makes a difference in your overall health and wellbeing.
Subcutaneous fat is located below your skin and above your muscles. When you pinch your belly, subcutaneous fat is what you're squeezing. Subcutaneous fat does not put you at direct risk of disease or other health issues.
Visceral fat is located deeper inside your body, filling the space around your abdominal organs. According to Harvard Health Publishing, visceral fat increases your risk of digestive problems, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
While all fat carries some health risk and raises the risk of inflammation, visceral fat releases even more inflammatory markers than subcutaneous fat. An April 2013 study in Archives of Medical Science states that visceral fat gives off higher amounts of IL-6 (interleukin-6) and PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor 1). These chemicals are both linked to inflammation, which raises the risk of certain diseases.
However, a study published in May 2017 in the International Journal of Obesity concluded that diet and exercise have an effect on both subcutaneous and visceral fat. Losing one type is linked to losing the other, and you lose more visceral fat than subcutaneous fat when you're exercising.
Unfortunately, targeting specific parts of your body for fat loss isn't possible. Some people believe if they do enough of the hardest crunches or core work, they'll lose belly fat. However, numerous studies have concluded that there's no basis for such an assumption.
For example, a small older study published in September 2011 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that participants who worked their abs five days a week for six weeks did not reduce their belly fat. This study confirmed the results of previous studies which also showed that abdominal exercises alone do not help a person lose belly fat.
Crunches and core work can add lean muscle and strengthen your abdominal muscles. This lean muscle may help give you a flatter appearance and may burn fat. However, doing crunches does not guarantee that fat will come off your midsection.
Your exercise routine to lose belly fat should include core work, cardio and other strength-training exercises. You'll also need to make sure you eat a healthy diet of vegetables, lean proteins and fruit.
Exercises for Fat Loss
Exercises to lose belly fat for men should focus on overall fitness. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends that men focus on two techniques to lose fat.
The first technique is strength training for the larger muscle groups. ACE indicates that men often focus on visible muscles, such as the biceps and chest. For better fat loss, men should focus on the lower body to help promote muscle growth and calorie burn throughout the day.
The second technique that ACE recommends is mixing a routine of high- and low-intensity cardio. ACE suggests one to two days of high-intensity cardio each week, interspersed with one to two days of low-intensity cardio. This gives your body time to recover and is better for overall fat burning.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans indicate that a well-rounded exercise plan should include strength training, cardio exercises and flexibility training. The guidelines also say that you should engage in 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense cardio exercise per week to help reduce fat and burn calories.
Moderate-intensity exercise includes a lot of potential activities such as brisk walks, doubles tennis, casual biking and yard work.
There are lots of options available for high-intensity activities too. Although high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is popular and often recommended for fast results, you can also run, jog, swim laps, hike uphill or take an aerobics class that focuses on cardio gains.
An exercise plan should also include strength training that works all your major muscle groups. This will help improve your overall strength and your metabolic rate (increasing how many calories you burn).
For some, resistance training can be a challenge: How much weight should you lift? How many reps? How many sets?
ACE indicates that the number of reps you do is inversely proportional to the amount of weight you use. In other words, the more weight you lift, the fewer reps you will be able to complete. Adding more weight does not necessarily help you toward your goals.
For example, if your goal is building strength, ACE recommends lifting heavier weights that cause fatigue within just 6 repetitions. However, if your goal is endurance, ACE recommends light weights that allow for as many as 20 to 30 repetitions, with minimal rest between sets.
When planning exercises for weight loss, allow one rest day each week. A rest day lets your body recover so you can continue working hard during your next active day. But you don't need to completely rest on a "rest day." You can still go for walks, engage in some physical activities or do yard work.
HIIT vs. Traditional Cardio
HIIT is a cardio workout that focuses on short, high-intensity training rounds. Typically, a person needs to do HIIT two or three times a week with rest days in between. There are several benefits of HIIT, including burning a larger number of calories per workout and completing your workout in a shorter period of time.
Traditional cardio routines can vary from low to high intensity. For example, you can walk briskly (medium intensity) or play a game of basketball (high intensity).
So which is better for weight loss? That may depend on you and your needs. A study published in September 2018 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise looked at the effects of unsupervised HIIT versus traditional cardio over 12 months. The researchers found that men were more likely to adhere to a HIIT routine over 12 months, but the overall percentage of those who completed the yearlong program was about 20 percent.
The study did show that the people who stuck with the HIIT program for 12 months saw a greater reduction in visceral fat and weight than those who didn't stick with the program. However, the study also showed that the health benefits for both the HIIT group and the traditional cardio group were roughly the same.
Therefore, the best exercise program to lose weight quickly at home or at the gym is the one that you can stick with for the long haul. If HIIT sounds interesting to you, then try some HIIT routines. However, if you prefer playing high-intensity sports, running or cycling, choose those exercises for your physical activity.
Read more: A Superset HIIT Workout Beginners Will Love
Eating for Quick Fat Loss
Working out is only a part of the process of losing belly fat for both men and women. You will also have to make adjustments to your diet unless you eat very healthy foods already.
You don't need to limit yourself to eating three sprigs of lettuce or only vegetables to lose fat. However, it does mean a reduction in simple sugars, processed foods and low-quality carbs.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, a healthy eating program should consist of:
- A variety of vegetables, including dark, leafy greens and starchy vegetables in a variety of colors.
- Grains, as least half of which should be whole grains.
- Lean proteins, including chicken, seafood, beans and nuts.
- Fresh or frozen whole fruits.
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
- Oils that are liquid at room temperature.
The Dietary Guidelines also recommend reducing your consumption of saturated fats, salts, sugar and trans fat. You can drink alcohol if you like, but the Dietary Guidelines recommend reducing intake to no more than one drink each day.
If you're looking to lose fat fast, you may need to reduce your caloric intake alongside eating more highly nutritious foods. According to the Mayo Clinic, to lose 1 pound of fat, you have to burn about 3,500 calories. However, weight loss is not that simple. As you cut calories and exercise more, you are losing a combination of water, soft tissue and fat.
The Mayo Clinic recommends choosing healthy foods, limiting portion sizes, swapping out high-calorie foods for lower-calorie options and eating lower-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. If you do this consistently, you will start to lose weight and fat.
In other words, you don't need to follow a fad diet or a highly restrictive diet to lose weight. In a study published in the journal Contemporary Clinical Trials in February 2017, researchers looked at a low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet for weight loss. Instead of examining which type of diet was better, they wanted to see if matching people with the right diet could make a difference in whether they reached their weight-loss goals.
This study advises future studies to focus additional attention on matching people to the best diet for the individual. The study showed that, in terms of weight loss, both the low-carbohydrate and the low-fat diet worked to help the participants lose weight.
You may benefit from working with a dietitian, who can help you figure out the eating plan that works best for your body. Working with a professional may help you lose weight faster than working on your own.
Read more: The 7 Principles of Fat Loss
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "The Effect of Abdominal Exercise on Abdominal Fat"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It"
- International Journal of Obesity: "Subcutaneous Fat Loss Is Greater Than Visceral Fat Loss With Diet and Exercise, Weight-Loss Promoting Drugs and Bariatric Surgery: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis"
- American Council on Exercise: "Forever Fat Loss for Men"
- American Council on Exercise: "How Many Reps Should You Be Doing?"
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: "High-Intensity Interval Training in the Real World: Outcomes From a 12-Month Intervention in Overweight Adults"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Chapter 1. Key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Contemporary Clinical Trials: "DIETFITS Study (Diet Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting With Treatment Success) – Study Design and Methods"
- Health.gov: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition: Chapter 4. Active Adults"
- Archives of Medical Science: "Biochemistry of Adipose Tissue: An Endocrine Organ"