Updated: Aug 1, 2019
One of the most common questions I get regarding my weight loss journey is how I was able to get rid of my stomach, aka belly fat, aka love handles (lol). Something that people don’t realize … my stomach was the LAST thing to go in the process. I had to try a combination of things to get it down and even after doing all of that, I still have a mini pouch from being overweight my entire life & having kids.
No amount of crunches or sit-ups was going to get rid of my belly fat and it is important to understand that you cannot spot reduce (or burn fat in only one area) when losing weight. Only a combination of consistent cardio and strength training, along with a sensible diet, can eliminate belly (or body) fat. While getting rid of your belly fat is not an easy task, be assured that you do not have to go for a tummy tuck or lipo to get the results that you want, and my transformation is proof of that!
Here are 5 things you can do to get a leaner body & lessen belly fat.
1) Don’t Be Cardio Crazy or Stingy on Strength Training! Focusing solely on cardio training slows the metabolism, promotes a loss in muscle and can even lower testosterone levels. However, when combined with strength training, the metabolism is positively affected, which means you’ll burn more calories for longer. Lean mass has a higher metabolism than fat mass due to muscle tissue being highly active, even at rest!
For instance, when I began incorporating strength training into my regimen, I noticed a boost in my metabolism + I started to have a leaner appearance (even if the scale did not reflect it).
Recommendation: Combine at least 2-3 non-consecutive days of strength training with cardio training as a part of a complete fitness program.
2) Burn MORE & Save Time with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to see the results you want. If anything, greater importance should be placed on exercising as efficiently and effectively as possible which is why HIIT is a great training technique to incorporate into your regimen. HIIT is short bursts of intense exercise combined with low-intensity active recovery periods. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), “With HIIT, you not only burn a lot of calories during the workout, but because of the high intensity you will continue to burn calories as your body replaces energy and repairs muscle proteins damaged during exercise.”
I did not start incorporating HIIT into my regimen until I was about 100lbs down. Like so many, I, too, was determined to lose my belly fat. Through my research, I learned about using HIIT to burn body fat. I did HIIT 2-3x a week and started to see a difference in a few short weeks, especially in my stomach area! Some HIIT exercises I started to do include:
Workout Sets that included: Burpees, Mountain Climbers, Jump Squats, High Knees & Plank Jacks
Incline Walking/Jogging (treadmill or up hills)
Sprint Intervals on the Treadmill
3) Look at the Nutrients You Take In…Not Just Calories! Increase protein, play with your carbs, and include a little healthy fat into your diet. Your macros play a big part the fat burning process:
Protein exerts a greater metabolic boosting effect over carbs & fats because when calories drop, protein maintains muscle--which in turns keeps the metabolism elevated. Ultimately, increasing your protein can help you lose more fat and preserve more lean mass. This is why I chose to follow a low/moderate carb, high protein diet to lose my weight.
Boost your healthy fat intake by including 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil or a handful of walnuts, almonds, or cashews into your diet. Healthy fats make the body more effective in using and burning fat – as long as calories and carbs remain under control.
While carbs can stimulate fat storage, they also help retain metabolic boosting muscle. Following a modified low carb diet & staggering your carb intake is one of the most effective ways to jump start your metabolism and to burn stubborn fat fast.
4) Skip the Late-Night Carbs! Carbs eaten before bedtime are more likely to be stored as body fat. Eating your carbs earlier on in the day gives your body a chance to use it for energy as the day continues. Focus on lean proteins and fiber-based vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage for your last meal of the day. Note: If you train late at night and your goal is to build muscle mass, you’ll need the carbs to replenish glycogen and support growth.
5) Try More Smaller Meals! While this method doesn’t for all, it definitely works for most…including me! Prior to losing weight I would eat 2x a day, maybe 3x on a good day and people couldn’t understand why I was still overweight. That’s because I was not eating enough of the right stuff and when I did eat a meal, I overate because I felt so starved.
When I started eating 5-6 small meals/snacks a day, I started to see a difference. Frequent, healthy snacking elevated my metabolism & kept it going, staved off hunger so I consumed less calories, and maintained my blood sugar levels, whereas before they was all over the place due to having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Each time you eat, your metabolism increases, and over a 6-10-week period, that increase can parlay into another 2-3 pounds of fat loss alone!