It's just two months until that cruise, beach vacation or high school reunion, and you want to sport a flat, svelte stomach for the event. Two months gives you time to reduce bloating and lose 5 to 10 pounds to get a flatter belly.
Whether this is enough for you to achieve your goal depends on your starting point. If you're significantly overweight, eight weeks will help you make strides toward a flatter belly, but you may not look quite like a swimsuit model in such a short time.
What It Takes
Magazine articles may promise that you can achieve a flat stomach with various abdominal exercises, but you'll never see them if you have too much fat padding your middle. A flat stomach usually appears when your body fat is relatively low — about 6 to 12 percent for men and 16 to 22 percent for women. When you're at the lower end of these body fat ranges, you may even sport a six-pack.
If you dedicate yourself to exercise and a healthy diet, expect to lose about 1 percent of your body fat per month safely and manageably. Two months may yield a flat stomach when you've got just a few pounds of extra fat. If, however, you have an average 40 percent fat as a woman or 28 percent as a man, your flat abs will take longer to achieve.
Even if you manage to reduce your body fat to lower levels, you're not guaranteed a washboard tum. Belly fat, especially subcutaneous belly fat — the type that you can pinch— can be especially stubborn. Be aware that if you get to a body fat of 12 percent as a man or 22 percent as a woman, you might need to get leaner to have super-flat abs.
Choose Healthy Foods
Exercise is helpful in achieving flat abs, but you must pay attention to what you put on your plate too. Reducing your caloric intake below the number that you burn helps you drop pounds. If you are consuming more than the minimum 1,200 calories needed daily to maintain health, figure out what you can drop from your diet to lose a safe 1 to 2 pounds per week, but, remember, not all will be lost from your middle. Simply consuming fewer calories isn't the only key to slimming your belly either.
Unprocessed foods, such as lean meats and poultry, fresh produce and whole grains, support a slimmer tummy. These foods are generally lower in calories than processed snacks, like chips and cereal bars, and contain less sodium, which undermines your flat tummy by making you retain water and bloat.
You may find that you're sensitive to some foods too. Certain whole grains, lactose — a sugar in dairy products — and specific fruits and vegetables, including pears, broccoli and onions, can cause excess gas production that makes an otherwise flat belly round. Limit your intake of these foods for the two months to see if it helps reduce bloating and abdominal pressure.
Commit to Exercise
High-intensity cardio and resistance training stimulate fat loss, especially from your stomach. Technically, you can't target a certain area for slimming according to ExRx. Crunches, twists and situps don't burn fat from your stomach area and definitely won't give you a flat stomach in two months.
Your body has a set pattern for losing weight, and it doesn't always follow your wishes. Visceral fat, which is the firm fat that makes your waistband expand and surrounds your internal organs, is slightly unique, however. Because it's metabolically active — which makes it especially inflammatory and dangerous to your health — it's also some of the first fat you lose when you exercise.
Significant results require commitment, however — 15 to 20 hours per month of working out with a combination of cardio and strength. And, it'll likely take more than two months to get the physique you want unless you're already really close to your goal.
Flat Stomach Workout
One of the most effective ways to get rid of the excess fat padding your belly is interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of very high-intensity cardio with short periods of rest. Perform a high-intensity interval session by alternating one-minute sprints with one-minute jogs, for example. Make two or three of your weekly workouts consist of HIIT. Other workouts may be done at a steady pace to burn calories and improve heart health.
Also aim to strength train two to three times per week, using heavy weights that fatigue you in eight to 12 repetitions. A strength-training session should target all the major muscle groups and include one to three sets total. Another option is to combine strength and HIIT in one workout. Alternate high-intensity cardio moves, such as burpees and switch lunges, with strength moves, such as pushups and squats with biceps curls.
These workouts kick-start a greater fat-burning metabolic response to help you lose some belly fat in two months. If you commit to this type of session, plan on doing them two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days. Keep active on the other days with hikes, brisk walking or other steady-paced cardio too.
- American Council on Exercise: What Are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Lost?
- Precision Nutrition: The Cost of Getting Lean
- ExRx: Fat Loss and Weight Training Myths
- American Council on Exercise: Maximize HIIT With Metabolic Strength Conditioning
- NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Gas in the Digestive Tract