Whether you're headed to the beach, prepping for a special occasion or just want to jump-start a healthier lifestyle, you can set the foundation for belly fat loss in a week. And while you likely won't reach your final weight loss goals in a week -- unless you're only looking to lose a pound or two -- you might be able to see minor differences and burn some initial belly fat. However, the results from diet and exercise modifications can keep you motivated to stick to longer term goals, and they'll set you on a road to success -- without the high risk of weight regain associated with fad crash diets.
Set Realistic One-Week Goals
Set yourself up to lose excess belly fat by setting realistic goals. You won't be able to lose fat exclusively from your belly -- it will come from all over your body, including your midsection -- or shed 20 pounds in just a week. You can, however, lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat to start slimming your midsection, using sustainable methods that'll allow for larger weight loss over longer periods of time.
Your first step? Figure out an appropriate calorie intake target. You'll want to eat slightly fewer calories than you burn daily to start torching body fat -- about 500 to 1,000 calories fewer. That small calorie deficit allows you to burn fat, but it won't generally trigger "starvation mode" that would lead to muscle loss over time.
Use an adult energy needs calculator to estimate your calorie intake needs; then subtract the 500 to 1,000 calories for weight loss. For example, a 28-year-old woman who is 5 foot, 9-inches tall weighs 175 pounds and is lightly active -- less than an hour a day -- burns about 2,400 calories daily. She'll burn about 2 pounds of fat in a week if she eats 1,400 calories daily, or 1 pound a week if she eats 1,900 calories a day.
Stay Full With Low Energy-Density Foods
It's normal to feel a few hunger pangs when you cut your calorie intake, but you don't want to feel ravenous. Filling your diet with low energy-density foods -- ones that have a low calorie count per gram -- allows you to fill up on larger portions while controlling your calorie intake. Many of these foods also supply water and fiber, which can make you feel full, to help with weight loss.
Load up on low energy density foods, like vegetables, fruits and fat-free broths. A few minor tweaks can lower the energy density of your favorite meals, too. For example, substitute a half-cup of spaghetti and a half-cup of spiralized zucchini "zoodles" for a full cup of spaghetti. Or make a chicken, vegetable and brown rice soup instead of serving grilled chicken with brown rice and veggies; the broth is often very low or virtually free of calories, lowering the energy density of your meal, so you may fill up on fewer calories.
Exercise Away Belly Fat
Boost your overall health and shed excess belly fat by adding exercise to your weekly routine. Any exercise you do -- whether that's a structured workout at the gym or an informal brisk walk around your neighborhood -- utilizes calories, so you'll burn more body fat.
But you'll lose the most fat by doing HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. This training technique involves working at full throttle for short intervals -- typically 10 seconds to a minute -- then recovering at a slow pace or resting for a minute or two. It increases your metabolism after a workout, since your muscles need to work hard to get "back to normal." HIIT also burns more belly fat than traditional, steady-pace cardio, according to Penn State University.
After you're thoroughly warmed up, increase the intensity for 30 seconds -- enough that you're out of breath by the end of the interval -- then recover at a slow pace for 90 seconds. Repeat those intervals 10 to 15 times; then cool down. Allow for 48 hours recovery between each HIIT workout to avoid overtraining.
Avoid Damaging Diets
Your best bet for blasting belly fat is slow, steady weight loss -- not instant one-week results. Steer clear of diets promising double-digit weight loss in just a week or diets that cut out entire food groups or require you to eat just a couple foods. These are typically fad diets that aren't sustainable -- so you're likely to regain any lost weight -- and such diet plans might even interfere with your ability to lose fat in the long run, explains the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Instead, pair a balanced diet with exercise for slower weight loss. Keep your metabolism revving with a moderate calorie restriction, which is above 1,200 calories for women and above 1,800 calories for men. You'll feel more satisfied and energetic and get better results in the long run for a beach-ready bod.
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- Penn State University: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger L
- Penn State University: Want to Lose Belly Fat? Try HIIT Training
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: Fad Diets
- McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism