No magical solution exists to address the small pouch of fat at the front of your lower abs. When you're dieting, you can't point to an area and simply will it to disappear. Your body loses weight in a pattern determined by genetics and hormones. The pouch is extra fat, just like any other excess fat that's deposited elsewhere on your body. To lose that pouch, a diet and exercise plan that focuses on reducing your overall body fat will help it shrink.
Lower Ab Fat
Your lower abdominal pooch is probably a combination of subcutaneous fat, which lies just beneath the skin, and visceral fat, or intra-abdominal fat that weaves in and around the internal organs, releasing compounds that make you more vulnerable to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes. Subcutaneous fat feels soft and pinchable; intra-abdominal fat makes your waist band expand and gives you an apple-like shape. Subcutaneous fat isn't as much of a health risk, but it's stubborn.
To lose either type of fat, you need a combination of diet and exercise. Fat is lost when you burn more calories -- or energy -- than you take in. Exercise helps increase this burn, and eating fewer calories ensures that there's a deficit. Most people can manage a 500- to 1,000-calorie-per-day deficit to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.
But when that lower abdominal pouch becomes your one trouble area -- and it's stubbornly holding out for loss -- you might find a 500- to 1,000-calorie deficit too aggressive and too difficult to maintain without losing muscle mass and leaving you feeling drained. You may benefit from a slower, more manageable loss of 1/2 pound per week -- which requires you to create only a 250-calorie deficit per day. Use an online calculator or contact a dietitian to estimate your daily calorie needs. Do not eat fewer than 1,200 per day, though, or you may deprive yourself of certain nutrients, which may slow your metabolism.
Eating for a Flatter Belly
To lose the lower belly pouch, your focus should be on clean, unprocessed foods. Eliminate all sugar, especially the type you drink in the form of soda, energy drinks and fancy coffees. Treats, including ice cream, candy and cookies also need to go. Skip the highly refined grains such as most breakfast cereals, white pasta, hamburger buns and pizza. Instead, opt for small servings of whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa.
The majority of your meals should be made up of lean proteins -- think flank steak, tofu, white fish or skinless poultry. Fresh vegetables, especially green, watery vegetables, provide you with enough fiber to help you stay full, while also providing valuable phytonutrients. To replace processed snack foods, have fresh fruit, 1/2 to 1 ounce of nuts and plain yogurt.
Exercise Away Your Fat Pouch
Contrary to magazine articles that claim otherwise, you can't engage in specific, targeted exercises to lose the lower abdominal pouch. These types of crunches and lifts only tone and strengthen the muscles that lie beneath the pouch, but they don't burn the fat off the pouch.
A comprehensive workout plan attacks fat, however. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise every week. If you want to lose significant weight, increase your workouts to more like 250 minutes per week, says the American College of Sports Medicine. Also include a minimum of two total-body, strength-training sessions per week. Address all the major muscle groups with exercises such as deadlifts, squats, lunges, presses and pulls. Use weight that fatigues you after eight to 12 repetitions. Start with just one set of exercises; add more as you become more fit. The muscle you gain all over your body from such workouts helps you become more efficient at burning calories and metabolizing fat -- even at rest.
Belly Fat in Men Versus Women
In men, a belly pooch can occur at any age, because of poor diet and exercise habits. In women, fat is more likely to be deposited in the hips and thighs; but once a woman faces menopause, the body tends to lay down more fat down in the belly as a result of hormones. Both men and women should use a healthy, portion-controlled diet, and both sexes should exercise as a way to address the belly pouch.
If you're a woman, keep in mind that a small amount of fat on your lower abs is normal and healthy -- that little fat pad serves as extra cushioning to protect your ovaries from damage. So while exercise and diet can burn away extra belly fat, you might retain a small, visible amount of fat in your lower abs, even at a healthy weight.
Pregnancy can also cause a pouch to appear just below your belly button that you never had before. Diet, exercise and patience do help this pregnancy-induced pouch to shrink, and breastfeeding can also help. It can take several months for you to notice results, though. How much weight you gained during pregnancy, your activity level during pregnancy and the number of children you've had also influence how quickly you can reduce the pouch.
- Scientific American: Why Does Fat Deposit on the Hips and Thighs of Women and Around the Stomachs of Men?
- Ask the Dietitian: Overweight & Weight Loss
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- Shape: Ask the Diet Doctor: How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
- American Council on Exercise: So You Want to Spot Reduce? Here's How
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss
- BabyCenter: Your Post-Baby Belly