If your curves are due more to fat than muscle, it can be difficult to keep all your curves while losing belly fat. You can't spot reduce and lose pounds or fat in just one place like the belly; the fat will come off all over your body. You can work to build muscle in the places you want curves, however, while you lose fat through diet and exercise.
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Dietary Changes to Lose Belly Fat
Belly fat potentially increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes, so it's best to minimize it even if it means you'll wind up being a little less curvy overall. Men typically need between 14 and 18 calories per pound to maintain their body weight, depending on how active they are, and women usually need between 12 and 16 calories per pound. To lose about 1 pound per week, you need to be in a deficit of 500 calories each day whether through diet or exercise or a combination of both. Women shouldn't go below 1,200 calories, and men shouldn't go below 1,800 daily, however, or it could slow down metabolism and prevent meeting all of the required nutritional needs.
To do this, concentrate on eating lean protein, vegetables, fruits and whole grains instead of more highly-processed foods. Including calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products in your diet may help improve fat loss during a weight-loss diet, according to a study published in Obesity Research in 2005, and these foods also contain protein, which is one of the nutrients that is particularly satiating. One way to feel full without eating too many calories is to divide your plate so half contains non-starchy vegetables, and eat these first. Their high water and fiber content will fill you up so you can easily eat less of the foods that are higher in calories on the other half of your plate, which should include whole grains and lean protein foods. Trade dessert for fruit, and cut back on sugary foods as much as you can. Consider swapping your favorite caloric beverage for unsweetened green tea, which may help increase any belly fat loss due to exercise, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition in 2009.
Importance of Cardio
The more you move and the less you sit, the more calories you burn each day, and the easier it is to lose weight and potentially belly fat. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2004 found that as the amount of exercise and the intensity of exercise a person does increases, so do the beneficial effects on body composition and weight, even without dietary changes. Even better, a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in 2003 found that weight loss from exercise is more likely to come from abdominal fat than weight loss from diet alone, helping you to maintain more muscle and improve your body composition. For weight loss purposes, aim for at least 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 150 minutes of high-intensity exercise each week. Moderate-intensity exercise means exercising hard enough that you can talk but not sing, while vigorous exercise makes it hard to say more than a few words at a time.
Strength Training Helps Keep Curves
Although most people think of cardio as exercise for weight loss, you shouldn't skip strength training. Muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat, so you'll burn more calories even when you aren't exercising if you increase your muscle mass. Also, if you don't strength train, about one-fourth of any weight you lose will come from muscle instead of fat.
Do at least two strength-training workouts per week that include eight to 10 different exercises targeting the major muscle groups and eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. The muscle you build will help give you some curves, making up for those you lost when you shed fat. You don't necessarily need to go to the gym to lift heavy weights, as you could also use exercise bands or body-weight exercises at home. Examples of body-weight exercises include pushups, crunches, planks, lunges and squats. Another option is to use household items as weights, such as cans of food and water bottles from your pantry. As you get stronger, you'll need to increase the amount of weight you're using to continue benefiting from the exercises, however.
What to Avoid
One thing you shouldn't do if you're trying to lose belly fat is take weight-loss supplements. A review article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 found that there isn't enough evidence to recommend the use of any over-the-counter weight-loss supplements. None of these supplements are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and most have potential safety concerns associated with them. For example, bitter orange can increase your blood pressure and cause chest pains, garcinia cambogia can cause headaches and gastrointestinal issues, and hoodia can lead to vomiting and dizziness.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Harvard Medical School: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- Rush University Medical Center: Is There 'One Trick' to Losing Belly Fat?
- Archives of Internal Medicine: Effects of the Amount of Exercise on Body Weight, Body Composition, and Measures of Central Obesity
- WomensHealth.gov: Physical Activity (Exercise) Fact Sheet
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Exercise-Induced Weight Loss Preferentially Reduces Abdominal Fat
- Obesity Research: Effects of Calcium and Dairy on Body Composition and Weight Loss in African-American Adults
- American Council on Exercise: What Are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Loss?
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism Is Modifiable With the Right Lifestyle Changes
- American Council on Exercise: Caloric Cost of Physical Activity
- The Journal of Nutrition: Green Tea Catechin Consumption Enhances Exercise-Induced Abdominal Fat Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Dietary Supplements for Body-Weight Reduction: A Systematic Review
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss