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 five to 10 pounds to get a flatter belly.
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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 to Sport a Flat Stomach
Magazine articles may promise 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 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're 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.
Even 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 and Small Portions
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.
Create a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories daily 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.
Read more: How to Slim Down Quickly for Your Big Event
Commit to Exercise
High-intensity cardio and resistance training stimulates fat loss, especially from your stomach. Technically, you can't target a certain area for slimming. Crunches, twists or situps don't burn fat from your stomach area.
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.
A study published in the International Journal of Cardiology in 2013 showed that high-volume, high-intensity exercise, particularly strength training, helps accelerate visceral fat to reveal a flatter stomach.
Significant results require commitment, however — 15 to 20 hours per week of working out with a combination of cardio and strength, according to the researchers. And, it'll likely take more than two months to get the physique you want unless you're already really close to your goal.
Read more: How to Tone Up Quickly for Your Big Event
Take On Tough Workouts
One of the most effective ways to get rid of the excess fat padding your belly is interval training. This workout 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 slim your stomach. If you commit to this type of session, plan on doing them two to three times per week on non-consecutive days. Keep active on the other days with hikes, brisk walking or other steady-paced cardio, too.