Your grandpa or dad may have a large belly, but that doesn't mean you should develop one as a teen. Belly fat, even in your youth, raises your risk of developing chronic health conditions that are normally only seen in people much later in life -- including type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Male teens who want to get rid of excess belly fat should reduce their intake of sugar and refined grains, move more and make quality sleep a priority. With these simple steps, belly fat is likely to shrink relatively quickly so that the risk of poor health diminishes significantly.
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Change Your Eating Habits
Guzzling soda and stopping at the closest fast food restaurant after school for a snack are habits that'll have to go if you want to lose stomach fat. Consciously cutting calories isn't necessary, but improving the quality of the foods you do eat is. In a study published in a 2015 issue of Public Health Nutrition, teens in New Zealand who ate a more balanced diet with adequate intakes of protein, vegetables, fruits and dairy had lower body fat percentages than their peers who ate less balanced diets. Another study, published in a Polish medical journal in 2006, found that reducing fat consumption and switching children's and adolescent's carbohydrates away from refined types decreased obesity.
Your takeaway is to eat more fruits and vegetables at every meal. Choose whole, plain versions such as an apple, a handful of grapes, or raw baby carrots. Avoid fruit juice, sweetened canned fruits or salads with lots of creamy dressing and fatty toppings. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation recommends males of all ages get at least nine servings of vegetables and fruits daily. Choose lean proteins, such as grilled chicken breast or lean flank steak, over ones high in saturated or trans fats, such as pulled pork, ribs or fried chicken patties. Skip the white buns, white pasta and cinnamon rolls; consume whole grains such as brown rice or 100 percent whole-wheat bread and pasta instead. And, don't skip breakfast. In a 2009 issue of Obesity, a study found a correlation between eating breakfast and lower levels of belly fat in adolescents. Have scrambled eggs with fresh fruit, peanut butter on whole-wheat toast with a banana or a bowl of oatmeal topped with berries and low-fat milk for the healthiest options.
Moving More Reduces Stomach Fat
Spending your days binge-watching television and playing video games takes a toll on your belly size. In the a 2012 edition of Diabetes, researchers published a study showing that participating in either resistance exercise or aerobic exercise, even without calorie restriction, for three months helped reduce stomach fat in obese adolescent boys. In an earlier study published in Obesity in 2010, a 12-week aerobic exercise program that involved just four 30-minute sessions at a moderate intensity per week helped overweight adolescents lose a significant amount of visceral, or belly, fat.
Aim for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation and get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. This may include playing soccer with your friends, riding your bike, walking your dog or lifting weights at the local fitness center.
Staying up late and getting up early for school has negative effects on the size of your middle. A study published in Sleep in 2010 showed that five hours or fewer of sleep per night correlated with increased belly fat in people younger than 40 years old. Skimping on sleep can make you feel more hungry and, because you're tired, cause you to make poor food choices and consume sugary energy drinks. Poor sleep negatively affects your mood, performance in school and alertness while driving. The National Sleep Foundation recommends teenagers get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night.
Teens Must Stress Less
You may feel pressure to get good grades or to fit in socially. This stress contributes to belly fat. Stress causes you to pump out a hormone known as cortisol, which encourages fat to deposit in your abdomen. Consider if your class load is too overwhelming or if you put undue stress on yourself to get good grades. Talk to your parents about finding ways to help you reduce stress, perhaps by lightening your load or finding an extracurricular activity that brings you joy.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Sleep: Sleep Duration and Five-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study
- Public Health Nutrition: Diet Quality Is Associated With Measures of Body Fat in Adolescents From Otago, New Zealand
- Medycyna Wieku Rozwojowego: Simple Obesity in Children. A Study on the Role of Nutritional Factors
- Obesity: Association of Breakfast Skipping With Visceral Fat and Insulin Indices in Overweight Latino Youth
- Diabetes: Effects of Aerobic Versus Resistance Exercise Without Caloric Restriction on Abdominal Fat, Intrahepatic Lipid, and Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Adolescent Boys: A Randomized, Controlled Trial
- Obesity: A 12-Week Aerobic Exercise Program Reduces Hepatic Fat Accumulation and Insulin Resistance in Obese, Hispanic Adolescents
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?
- National Sleep Foundation: Sleep for Teenagers
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation: Male Diet & Nutrition