Let's face it: Belly fat just might be the most despised type of body fat. And for good reason, considering the health risks that come along with it (more on that later).
There's no such thing as a "belly fat burner," and you're unlikely to lose a significant amount of belly fat in two weeks. But making certain lifestyle changes now can help you start shrinking your waistline.
The key is to change your eating habits and workout regimen. Ditch less-healthy foods, fill up on metabolism-supporting foods, cut down on certain carbs and increase your exercise intensity. Here's how to do just that.
1. Fill Up on Healthy Fats
Not all fats are created equal. Some can make it easier to lose belly fat and keep it off. Omega-3s, which occur naturally in fish (such as salmon and tuna) and fish oil, are particularly beneficial.
A November 2015 meta-analysis in PLOS One suggests that fish oil may improve waist-to-hip ratio when used as part of a weight-loss plan. These fatty acids may be even more effective at preventing weight gain, according to researchers.
Another study, which appeared in The FASEB Journal in April 2014, found that omega-3s may reduce total fat mass, visceral fat, body weight and inflammation in people with obesity.
Fish oil isn't a belly fat burner, but it seems that it can help with weight loss. Good sources of omega-3s include the following, per the National Institutes of Health:
- Chia seeds
- Cold-water fish, including salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel
- Plant oils, including canola, flaxseed and soybean
- Some fortified foods, including some eggs, milk, yogurt and soy beverages
These healthy fats may also help protect against heart attacks, relieve arthritis pain and prevent age-related macular degeneration. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
Even healthy fat can cause weight gain if you're eating too much of it, so stick to appropriate portion sizes.
2. Limit Sugar and Refined Carbs
Sugary drinks and foods are linked to a larger waist size.
A June 2014 study in The Journal of Nutrition, for example, connected soda consumption to abdominal fat. Researchers point out that it's the location of fat storage that matters when it comes to overall health. Visceral fat, which accumulates in the abdominal area, is the most likely to contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular events.
Start by cutting down on sugar, refined carbs and other foods that can promote belly fat, including:
- Breakfast cereals
- White bread (as opposed to whole-grain or whole-wheat)
- White pasta (as opposed to whole-wheat)
White rice (as opposed to brown)
- Sweets and desserts
- Fried and fast food
- Ice cream
- Flavored yogurt
- Granola bars
- Sugary drinks, such as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks and sweetened coffee and tea
Check ingredient labels for added sugars and hidden carbs. Limit foods that contain white flour, table sugar, coconut sugar, molasses, glucose, dextrose or high-fructose corn syrup.
Beware that many so-called diet foods are packed with sugar. Even if the label says "sugar-free" or "no sugar added," they may contain fruit juice concentrate, fructose, maltose and other hidden sugars. Always check the nutrition label.
3. Avoid Trans Fats
Trans fats, sometimes called trans fatty acids, promote the pile-up of belly fat, according to a March 2018 report in Circulation.
What's more: Trans fats raise bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol levels, which may contribute to heart disease, diabetes and stroke, per the American Heart Association.
These fats are highly processed and have no nutritional value. Foods with trans fats might include:
- Fried and fast foods
- Microwave popcorn
- Packaged cake frosting
- Pastries, cookies and other baked goods
- Coffee creamers
- Other foods made with partially hydrogenated oils, including some candies
4. Add HIIT to Your Workouts
If you're serious about burning body fat, regular exercise is a must. Some workouts are more effective than others, though.
Research shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can skyrocket your metabolism and help torch belly fat. Indeed, a September 2019 study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found HIIT to be more effective in reducing abdominal fat than other types of training.
An April 2016 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness looked at the effects of HIIT versus traditional workouts on body composition. People who completed two weekly HIIT sessions and two regular gym workouts saw a greater reduction in belly fat than those who just did HIIT or traditional gym training. Their cardiorespiratory fitness levels improved, too.
HIIT has you alternate between short, intense bouts of activity and periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. Most HIIT workouts involve 30 seconds of high-intensity effort, such as sprinting or jumping rope, followed by 30 seconds of rest. A typical session takes anywhere from 10 minutes to 20 minutes.
You shouldn't do HIIT every day, but combining it with low-impact strength training workouts and/or moderate cardio just may make it easier to lose belly fat in two weeks.
Try These Workouts
What About Products Sold as Belly Fat Burners?
When you're short on time, it can be tempting to try a belly fat burner like CLA, garcinia cambogia or raspberry ketones. But many if not all of these products lack the scientific evidence to support their claims. Plus, they have the potential to cause adverse reactions such as nausea, vomiting and palpitations.
Garcinia cambogia, for example, has been linked to reduced visceral fat, body fat and blood sugar levels when combined with glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fiber, per a January 2018 paper in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. The downside is that you may experience nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, irritability, mania and other unpleasant and possibly harmful side effects.
Like it or not, there is no such thing as a supplement that targets or burns belly fat. A balanced diet combined with strength training and HIIT will help you get leaner overall, which will help you get rid of belly fat.
The Health Risks of Belly Fat
Visceral fat is the medical term for the type of fat that surrounds your liver, gallbladder and other abdominal organs. It's also known as active fat because of its ability to release pro-inflammatory substances. At the same time, it affects the production of adiponectin, a hormone connected to metabolism.
According to a June 2017 review in the Archives of Medical Science, obesity and inflammation are strongly connected. Visceral fat secretes inflammatory adipokines that contribute to the onset of insulin resistance, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome and other conditions. These compounds also interfere with your body's ability to break down carbs and fats, affecting metabolic health.
A large study including more than 500,000 people and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in February 2018 suggests that belly fat poses more dangers for those assigned female at birth (AFAB) than those assigned male at birth. The risk of having a heart attack is about 10 to 20 percent higher for people AFAB with a higher waist-to-hip ratio and other markers of abdominal obesity compared to those who are just heavier overall.
In addition to visceral fat, you may also have subcutaneous or "soft" belly fat, which is stored beneath the skin. Both types of fat are difficult to lose, so don't expect overnight results. Forget about miracle slimming pills, crash diets and specialty products that guarantee fat loss. Instead, focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting exercise most days.
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- Archives of Medical Science: "Obesity and Inflammation - The Linking Mechanism and the Complications"
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: "Adiponectin, a Therapeutic Target for Obesity, Diabetes, and Endothelial Dysfunction"
- Journal of the American Heart Association: "Sex Differences in the Association Between Measures of General and Central Adiposity and the Risk of Myocardial Infarction"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Is Associated With Abdominal Fat Partitioning in Healthy Adults"
- Circulation: "Effect of Distinct Lifestyle Interventions on Mobilization of Fat Storage Pools"
- American Heart Association: "Trans Fats"
- PLOS One: "Does Fish Oil Have an Anti-Obesity Effect in Overweight/Obese Adults? A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- The FASEB Journal: "Overall Effect of Diet and Supplementation With Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Concentration of IL-6 and TNF-α in Obese Adults"
- National Institutes of Health: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids"
- The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness: "Eight weeks of a combination of high intensity interval training and conventional training reduce visceral adiposity and improve physical fitness: a group-based intervention"
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Long-Term Effects of Garcinia Cambogia/Glucomannan on Weight Loss in People With Obesity, PLIN4, FTO and Trp64Arg Polymorphisms"
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "High-Intensity Interval Training in Cardiac Rehabilitation: Impact on Fat Mass in Patients With Myocardial Infarction"