Belly fat is definitely something most of us want to get rid of. And quickly. We go through Instagram fitness accounts and see endless pictures of flat bellies, lines and abs. We want in. But how? Feel like you’ve done your fair share of sit ups? You’ve eaten healthy for a few days in a row? What more do we need to do, honestly? Well, it turns out a LOT MORE. But don’t lose hope…
Unfortunately doing 100 crunches or sit ups a day won’t cut it. I’m sure you’ve read it before that spot reduction is a myth. You cannot only focus on training your abs if you want abs or a flat tummy. Yes, you need to give your abdominal muscles the necessary attention (they are a muscle group like any other) but far more effort is required before you will be able to see them. Decreasing your overall body fat should be your ultimate goal as this will decrease your belly fat as well, revealing those abs you’ve been working on in the meantime.
Here are some of my tips to get rid of belly fat:
- Unhealthy food is the main enemy
You know this. Make peace with it, stop trying to find ways around it and start working towards healthier habits. If you want your belly fat to go away you need to eat like you want your belly fat to go away.
Avoid refined carbohydrates and added sugar. Only consume the maximum recommended1 amount per day – 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. So when you are checking the nutritional label on something you want to buy, work out how many teaspoons of sugar is in there: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar.
For a list of foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugars as well as a list of some of the more acceptable options, click here.
Easiest way to eat healthier is to go as natural as possible – always opt for fresh products where possible and if something you buy has an ingredients list, it should be as short as possible and sugar should not be in the top 3 ingredients. Swap white carbs for whole wheat carbs.
Find ways to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life. Take it day by day and don’t think of it as “being on a diet”. It should be a long term lifestyle and not a 2 week “no sugar” plan where you fall back into old habits after the 2 weeks.
Limit takeaways – you know it’s fattening and bad for you. No further explanation needed.
- Eat enough protein and eat regularly
We’ll get to the exercise and building muscle part later, but you need to eat enough protein to help your body build, repair and recharge. The more muscle you have, the more fat you’ll burn (and no, you won’t get bulky from lifting weights ladies). Your body also uses more calories to digest protein than any other macro nutrient. This isn’t the only reason to increase your protein intake. Studies show it reduces cravings, boost metabolism and help you eat fewer calories per day2.
Eat regularly (every 2 – 3 hours) to keep insulin levels stable and to avoid overeating after skipping a meal.
- Exercise consistently
You need to make exercising part of your life. And don’t just focus on your abs. You need to increase overall muscle mass, and burn enough calories to lose body fat – and losing body fat means you will see the results around your waist as well. Endless cardio sessions are also not the perfect solution. I would suggest doing 3 days resistance training where you challenge your body using weights (don’t just stick to the mini weights – don’t be afraid to use heavier weights within your abilities). Pick a weight where you struggle with your last two reps of each set. Be sure to always incorporate exercises for your legs, chest and back, these 3 are your biggest muscle groups and you will burn a lot of calories when training them. The other 2 days can be used for cardio, you can switch it up between long, low intensity cardio sessions (walking at a fast pace for 45 minutes) or high intensity interval cardio (skipping rope or sprints using intervals of 30 seconds sprint, 30 second rest for 10 – 15 minutes).
- Have fun with ab exercises
Incorporate ab exercises into your weekly training routine, but remember, just like any other muscle they also need some rest. Don’t train your abs every day, rather stick to every other day or twice a week. Some of my favourite ab exercises include reverse crunches, russian twists, weighted decline sit ups, bicycle crunches, leg raises, v-ups and planking. I also like to combine my ab exercises with movements like mountain climbers, burpees and skipping rope – to burn additional calories. Also, if visible abs are what you are after, don’t be afraid to use weights while doing ab exercises. The bigger you build your abs the more body fat you will be able to carry and still have visible abs. I alternate between heavier ab days and no weight ab days. Use a 15 – 20 rep range with 3 to 4 sets when training your abs and increase the intensity as you get fitter and stronger. Experiment with new movements that challenge your core by incorporating stability ball exercises into your ab routine like stability ball pull ins, planks and glute bridges. Be careful when using a stability ball, it is a lot more challenging.
- Get enough sleep and reduce stress
Your body recovers while you are sleeping and your muscles need to rest and recharge. Your body cannot function properly if you are not rested and this will make it more difficult for you to reduce body fat. Lack of sleep also increases your stress levels. Chronic stress can really reverse all your good efforts to lose unwanted weight. Our bodies release cortisol when we are stressed and this hormone slows your metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, storing fat mostly in the abdominal area. If this wasn’t bad enough, cortisol also results in an increase in appetite – which will explain cravings and binge eating after a stressful day. Try to find activities you enjoy doing, spend time focusing on you, exercise and try to not sweat the small stuff.
Results take time, it takes dedication, commitment and consistency. Be patient, push through the difficult days where you are not motivated and keep your eye on the prize. There are a lot of quick fixes out there, but don’t be fooled – if it was that easy everyone would be in great shape all the time. Take the time and effort, do it the right way and walk away from the experience proud, fit and healthy. It doesn’t just take a few days or weeks. There will be good days and bad days, but work towards having majority good days and you are already making progress.
Last note, remember to take pictures every 4 weeks – you will be amazed at how your body changes once you commit to a healthier lifestyle.
You can do this. Don’t hesitate to chat to me on Facebook, Instagram or email when you need some motivation – even if you are not using my programs or training with me, I am still here to support you.