Let's face it, belly fat simply doesn't look good. It can ruin your confidence and keep you from wearing tank tops, tight dresses and other fashionable outfits. What you might not know is that stomach fat may increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or even cancer. While there's no such thing as a belly fat burner, certain lifestyle changes can help you lose the flab and shrink your waistline within weeks.
The Risks of Belly Fat
Have you ever heard of visceral fat? This medical term describes 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, such as tumor necrosis factor α. At the same time, it affects the production of adiponectin, a hormone that regulates lipid and glucose metabolism.
According to a 2017 review published 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 conducted on more than 500,000 people and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2018 suggests that belly fat poses more dangers for women than for men. The risk of having a heart attack is about 10 percent to 20 percent higher in women with a higher waist-to-hip ratio and other markers of abdominal obesity compared to those who are just heavier overall. Visceral fat has been also linked to Alzheimer's disease, breast and colorectal cancers, glucose intolerance and Type 2 diabetes.
How to Lose Stomach Fat
In addition to visceral fat, you may also have subcutaneous 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. If these things worked, obesity wouldn't be a global concern.
No matter how hard you try, it's unlikely you'll lose belly fat in two weeks. It took you months or years to gain that extra weight and it will take some time to get back in shape. The key is to change your eating habits and workout regimen. Ditch the junk, fill up on metabolism-boosting foods, cut down on unhealthy carbs and increase exercise intensity.
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If you only have two weeks to get in shape, don't fret. There are a couple of things you can do to flatten your tummy and lose a few inches from your waist. Cutting back on sodium, for example, will help reduce bloating and fluid retention. A low-carb diet will have similar effects because carbs hold water.
Limit Sugar and Refined Carbs
Sugar promotes visceral fat accumulation and increases diabetes risk. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutrition has linked soda consumption to abdominal adiposity. 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 promote visceral fat gain. Breakfast cereals, white pasta, white rice, sweets, chips, ice cream and granola bars are just a few examples. Check the labels for added sugars and hidden carbs. Steer clear of any 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. For example, some protein bars have more sugar and fat than a glazed doughnut, according to Protectivity's commercial director Andy Brownsell in a January 2018 interview with FoodNavigator-USA. Many brands boast up to 20 grams of sugar per serving.
Avoid Trans Fats
According to a 2018 report published in the journal Circulation, trans fatty acids promote the accumulation of visceral fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have the opposite effect. Furthermore, trans fatty acids raise bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol levels, which may contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.
These fats are highly processed and have no nutritional value. They're commonly found in fried foods, deli meats, ice cream, cake frosting, hydrogenated vegetable oils, pastries, cookies, coffee creamers and junk food.
Fill Up on Good 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 2015 meta-analysis published in Plos One suggests that fish oil may improve waist-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 2014, has found that omega-3s may reduce total fat mass, visceral fat, body weight and inflammation in obese people.
Fish oil isn't a belly fat burner, but it can facilitate weight loss. In addition to fatty fish, other good sources of omega-3s are chia seeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts, seeds and other types of seafood. As the National Institutes of Health points out, these healthy fats may protect against heart attacks, relieve arthritis pain and prevent age-related macular degeneration. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
Add HIIT to Your Workouts
If you're serious about fat loss, regular exercise is a must. Some workouts are more effective than others, though. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) will skyrocket your metabolism and torch belly fat. Over time, it may lower your risk of insulin resistance and improve glucose metabolism, according to 2017 study featured in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
HIIT is particularly effective against visceral fat. In 2016, The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness published the results of a study assessing the effects of high-intensity interval training versus traditional workouts on body composition. Subjects who completed two weekly HIIT sessions and two regular gym workouts experienced a greater reduction in belly fat than those performing either HIIT or traditional gym training. Their cardiorespiratory fitness levels improved, too.
This training protocol alternates 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. Combining strength training and HIIT will make it easier to lose belly fat in two weeks, so give it a try.
Using a Belly Fat Burner
When you're short on time, it can be tempting to try a belly fat burner like CLA, garcinia cambogia or raspberry ketones. Many of these products lack scientific evidence to support their claims. But, what they all have in common is the potential to cause adverse reactions, from nausea and vomiting to palpitations.
Garcinia cambogia, for example, has been found to reduce visceral fat, body fat and blood sugar levels when combined with glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fiber. It may also increase your metabolism and improve blood lipids. The downside is that you may experience nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, irritability, mania and other side effects.
These supplements, though, don't necessarily target belly fat. Like it or not, there is no such thing as spot reduction. A balanced diet combined with strength training and HIIT will help you get leaner overall, but belly fat is often the last to go. If you do decide to use a belly fat burner or other diet pills, check with your healthcare provider beforehand.
- NCBI: "Visceral Adiposopathy: A Vascular Perspective"
- Diabetes.co.uk: "Visceral Fat (Active Fat)"
- NCBI: "Obesity and Inflammation - The Linking Mechanism and the Complications"
- MDPI: "Adiponectin, a Therapeutic Target for Obesity, Diabetes, and Endothelial Dysfunction"
- AHA Journals: "Sex Differences in the Association Between Measures of General and Central Adiposity and the Risk of Myocardial Infarction"
- World Action on Salt: "Water Retention"
- NCBI: "Death by Carbs - Added Sugars and Refined Carbohydrates Cause Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in Asian Indians"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Is Associated With Abdominal Fat Partitioning in Healthy Adults"
- FoodNavigator-USA: "Finding That Many Protein Bars Have More Fat & Sugar Than a Doughnut Could Tarnish Their Health Halo"
- AHA Journals: "Effect of Distinct Lifestyle Interventions on Mobilization of Fat Storage Pools"
- Heart.org: "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"
- NIH.gov: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids"
- Wiley Online Library: "Increased Insulin‐Stimulated Glucose Uptake in Both Leg and ARM Muscles After Sprint Interval and Moderate‐Intensity Training in Subjects With Type 2 Diabetes or Prediabetes"
- Minerva Medica: "The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2016"
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: "Long-Term Effects of Garcinia Cambogia/Glucomannan on Weight Loss in People With Obesity, PLIN4, FTO and Trp64Arg Polymorphisms"
- RxList: "Garcinia"