The pouch of fat that folds over your bikini line and keeps you from buttoning your skinny jeans torments you. You desperately want it to shrink, so you sport a flat belly.
The good news: This lower belly pooch is unlikely taking a dramatic toll on your health. You have to worry about firm belly fat that weaves deeply around your internal organs and raises your risk of chronic disease. Your lower belly fat, however, is likely soft and pinchable, meaning it's subcutaneous — lying just under the skin. Subcutaneous fat only endangers your well-being when you have an extreme abundance of it.
The bad news? This subcutaneous fat can be incredibly hard to make disappear. The lower belly can be one of the most stubborn areas for women.
To lose lower stomach flab, you might think you need to work the lower abs more, but this reasoning is flawed. No true "lower" abs exist, as the lower belly is part of your whole abdomen's muscular structure. Sure, some moves put a little more emphasis on the lower region of the rectus abdominis, but there isn't a specific lower ab muscle, or muscles, that you firm up into a washboard belly.
Working your abs more often and harder is also not the way to lose lower belly fat and get a flat tum. Ab moves don't notably increase your calorie burn or build substantial calorie-sizzling muscle. Reducing your overall fat percentage is the only way to truly get rid of the fat.
Revamp Your Nutrition
You might be eating pretty well, including lean protein, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy and whole grains at most meals. To lose the belly fat, though, you might have to make additional tweaks to your dietary plan.
Watch portion sizes so you're not eating more calories than you burn daily. Eat 250 to 1,000 calories fewer to lose 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. Be careful to establish a deficit that doesn't have you eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day, though, or you'll risk stalling your metabolism and possible nutritional deficiencies. Track your caloric intake with Livestrong's MyPlate.
Continue to make the calories you do eat come from quality, whole foods. Focus mostly on lean proteins — think fish and chicken breast — and fresh veggies. Small servings of whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables round out your diet plan. A low intake of carbohydrates helps expedite weight loss, as shown by a randomized trial published in a 2014 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. Don't skimp on healthy fats; eat a serving of olive oil, avocado or nuts at most meals.
Your lower belly's swell is sometimes a symptom of digestive system in distress. A food intolerance or abundance of gas-producing food could show up as a bloated pooch in your lower abdomen. Cruciferous vegetables, dairy foods, bran and sugar alcohols — namely sorbitol and mannitol — could be the root cause of your tummy pooch if you're of a normal weight.
Move That Body
Cardio and strength training are also critical to losing your lower belly pooch. Women often sacrifice strength training to spend extra time on the treadmill or stair climber; after all, these exercise modes seem to burn more calories. However, resistance training has its place in a well-rounded routine.
A little investment in building more muscle helps you become leaner all over. Muscle burns more calories than fat at rest, so by strength training, you're turning your body into a calorie-burning machine that sizzles excess body fat — including that bit right below your belly button.
Do at least two resistance workouts per week, using weights that make you feel fatigued in eight to 12 repetitions. Skip the arm circles and leg raises, as big, compound moves such as squats, chest presses, pull-ups, lunges, dips and hip hinges should be part of your regimen.
That's not to say some cardio isn't important in keeping your heart healthy, bones strong and weight maintained. A minimum of 30 minutes on most days of the week at a moderate intensity suffices for most women, but to get a flat tummy, do interval training at three of these workouts.
Intervals involve alternating short bouts of all-out effort with short bouts of easy effort. Interval training provides an after-burn effect, so you continue to use extra calories after you've left the gym, and turns on certain body mechanisms that increase your fat-burning capacity. All of these benefits were confirmed by research in the 2014 issue of Journal of Novel Physiotherapies.
Lower Belly Focus
Although specific ab exercises won't give you a flat belly, some moves help reduce bloating and give you strength and balance so you can better execute all exercises. These three moves work the rectus abdominis, the front sheath of your abs, with special emphasis on the lower region.
Lie on your back, bend your knees and raise your shins parallel to the floor. Place your hands on your thighs, keeping your head and back pressed into the ground.
On the inhale, brace your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button in toward your back bone. Simultaneously push your hands against your legs and your legs into your hands.
Hold this isometric power move for one to two counts. Relax and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions.
Draw your navel in and lift your hips toward the ceiling to create an inverted v-shape. Feel your abdomen pull in, and slightly under, your ribcage.
Hold for two to three breaths and return to the original forearm plank. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Lie on your back and rest your hands behind your head. Lift your legs and create a 90-degree angle with your knees.
Press your lower back down as you draw your abs in to lift your buttocks and hips up off the floor. Your knees roll toward your chest.
Return to the starting position to complete one repetition. Aim for 12 to 15 repetitions total.