How to Lose Belly Fat & Gain Butt Muscle

A flat stomach and big butt make for the classic hourglass figure that adorns so many of pop culture's hottest celebrities. How do they do it? Likely with the help of personal trainers and custom meal plans. If you're not a celebrity, you can still achieve this desirable figure; You just need the right plan for diet and exercise to lose belly fat and gain a booty.

Squats are a great way to gain muscles for your butt. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

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Doing cardio and targeted strength-training exercises, plus eating a diet with the right nutrients and calories, will help you build a big booty and trim stomach fat.

Losing Belly Fat

There are two components to trimming your tummy and building your butt: losing fat and gaining muscle. If you have excess tummy fat, you likely carry too much fat in other areas of your body. Since you can't spot reduce and target just your stomach for fat loss, you have to lose total body fat.

The conventional way to lose fat is to reduce your calorie intake below your daily calorie expenditure. Calorie expenditure isn't just how much you burn during a jog on the treadmill. It includes the energy your body expends performing physiological functions like digestion, as well as supporting your non-exercise activity.

Your total daily energy expenditure also depends on other things, such as genetics, health conditions and medications, age, gender and more. So finding just the right number can be difficult.

But you can get a general idea using estimates based on age and gender from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020. Moderately active men ages 26 to 45 need 2,600 calories a day. Women of the same age need 2,000 calories.

Moderately active means that your physical activity is equal to walking 1.5 to 3 miles a day at a moderate pace. If you're going to start an exercise plan to build a big booty, which will require more exercise than that, you will likely need more calories — between 2,800 and 3,000 calories if you're a man and 2,200 to 2,400 calories if you're a woman.

Do you know how many calories you're currently consuming? Keep a food journal for several days and track your calorie intake as best you can. From there, you can figure out how many calories you need to lose belly fat but gain muscle. This depends on how much fat you have to lose.

If you're overweight or obese, creating a greater calorie deficit will help you reach your goals quicker. If you just have a little extra weight to lose, you won't need to create as much of a deficit.

Generally, a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories daily will help you lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat a week, according to Nutrition.gov. However, when you are strength training, it's crucial that you don't drop your calories too low. Muscle building requires adequate energy and raw materials.

Exercise for a Huge Booty

Losing fat and building muscle requires a two-part exercise plan that includes cardio and resistance training. Cardio will help you burn calories and fat, while strength training will help you build your booty. It will also increase your metabolism to help you burn even more fat.

Long-duration cardio exercise isn't the best bet when you want to build muscle. According to Jacob Wilson, PhD, CSCS, professor and director of the skeletal muscle and sports nutrition laboratory at the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, Florida, doing too much cardio can blunt your muscle gains.

First of all, long, frequent cardio workouts add volume to your program, which can make it more difficult to recover from your strength-training sessions. Recovery is key for building muscle.

Second, certain physiological adaptations after cardio exercise may cancel out the gains you make lifting weights. In addition, Dr. Wilson reports that his research has shown that moderate-intensity, long-duration cardio promotes the least amount of long-term fat loss.

Dr. Wilson recommends sessions of 20 minutes or less. That is the duration associated with the smallest loss in muscle mass. However, for these short workouts, you have to up the intensity. In his research, Dr. Wilson said he found sprints not only didn't break down muscle, but they actually increased muscle mass.

You can do interval sprints running, biking, rowing or on an elliptical machine. After a warm-up, increase your speed to an all-out sprint for 30 to 60 seconds. Then, return to an easy pace for 60 to 90 seconds to recover. Repeat this for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, then cool down.

Best Booty-Building Exercises

If you want a bigger, firmer more lifted behind, you'll have to work for it, lifting the right loads at the right intensity that will best encourage growth. Doing a few sets of bodyweight plie squats isn't going to get you there. But four excellent exercises for a big butt include:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Hip thrusts

Doing just these four moves at the right intensity, volume and frequency, and continuing to increase the challenge over time, will get you results. Not sure what intensity, volume and frequency are?

  • Intensity is the effort expended during your workout
  • Volume is the number of sets and reps you do
  • Frequency is how many times you work a body part each week

Generally, if you want to build muscle, you should do three to five sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise with a weight that is heavy enough to feel very challenging by the final rep. Training twice a week is the best frequency for building muscle mass, according to a meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine in November 2016.

Although you may not be at a point where you can go into the gym and squat 75 pounds, it's a good goal to work towards. Build a base of fitness and continue to build on that each week.

Don't Forget Your Diet

In addition to getting your calorie intake right, you have to make sure to balance your macros, or macronutrients — protein, carbohydrate and fat. Protein is the most important nutrient because it's the building block of muscle. The recommendation for daily protein intake from the National Academy of Medicine is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, individuals who strength train typically need more protein.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends people who strength train regularly get 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. The sources of protein you choose are just as important — go for lean protein sources, such as chicken, fish, eggs, beans and nuts.

Carbohydrates are also crucial for energy and recovery. The National Academy of Medicine recommends an intake range of 45 to 60 percent of calories daily from carbs.

Increasing your protein intake means taking in slightly fewer carbohydrates, so aiming for the lower end of that range is a good bet. Most important is where you get your carbs. Avoid sugar and processed grains, and reach for whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Fats should make up the rest of your calories. As with protein and carbs, the types of fat you choose are crucial. Instead of saturated fat from fried foods and red meat, opt for poly- and monounsaturated fats from avocado, nuts and seeds, fish and olive oil.

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