Your muffin top sticks around for a reason. If you're like most people, you're genetically predisposed to store excess fat around your abdomen (total bummer, we know). This stubborn area can be difficult to tone, especially if there are other contributing factors like a poor diet, stress or lack of sleep.
A few additions to your workout regimen can overcome these challenges, getting you the toned and shapely abs you've been dreaming of. Use these tips to boost your workout and banish your muffin top for good.
1. Amp Up Your Workout
When it comes to your workout routine, regular cardio is good, but it may not get you the weight-loss results you're looking for. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best way to jump-start your workout and eliminate your muffin top.
These short bursts of maximum exertion last for 30 seconds to a few minutes and help stimulate fat loss, even after your workout has ended. Interval training is incredibly time-efficient, too.
In a 2016 study ing PLOS ONE, subjects who did interval training matched the results of those who used steady-state endurance training over 12 weeks. The results held true even when the duration of exercise was five times less for those doing interval training.
To perform a simple interval-training workout, start by warming up at an easy pace on a treadmill for five minutes. Sprint for 30 seconds to two minutes, then recover by walking or jogging for the same amount of time you sprinted. Repeat this four to nine times, then cool down by walking for five minutes.
2. Target Your Oblique Muscles
No, you can't spot reduce your muffin top. But if you're keeping up with good nutrition (see #5 on this list) and fitting in several HIIT workouts a week, then you'll also want to include targeted strength training to tighten and tone the underlying muscles.
You'll want to specifically focus on strengthening your oblique and lower back muscles. Exercises like side plank, bicycle crunches and back extensions are a good place to start. Or try the above workout from YouTube Pilates trainer Cassey Ho.
3. Take Care of Your Brain
Reducing stress in your life may also help you reduce your muffin top. When you're stressed, your body produces an excess of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol makes fat cells larger and stimulates the body to retain more fat as a survival instinct modern humans don't have much use for.
Taking some time out of each day to relax or meditate, or switching up your workout to spend more time outside are some great tips for reducing your stress levels. Christine A. Maglione-Garves, PhD, from the University of New Mexico recommends following a regular stress-management program to keep your cortisol levels in check.
4. Head for Bed Earlier
If you're working late, your sleep schedule can work against you and your exercise plans. According to the National Sleep Foundation, late sleepers tend to lead less healthy lives.
A 2011 Northwestern Medicine study found that individuals who stayed up late and slept in ate, on average, 248 extra calories a day, and ate less fruits and vegetables in favor of more processed foods.
Those extra calories consumed after 8:00 p.m. could be helping your muffin top stick around. Even when the amount of sleep between study participants was controlled for, late sleepers still had a higher body mass index than those who went to bed earlier.
5. Change Your Diet
Your diet is a major contributor to your overall fitness. According to Kate Patton, registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic, eating too many processed foods makes it much more difficult to lose belly fat.
Refined or processed foods like white bread and chips, and sugary foods like soda and desserts can increase inflammation, preventing the loss of body fat from exercise. Healthier foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains are anti-inflammatory, and can help eliminate your muffin top when combined with a healthy amount of exercise.
Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods