When it comes to belly fat, there’s nothing better than a combination of a good diet and solid workouts. Research has shown that in and of themselves, diet and exercise are useful, but they’re the most powerful when they come together; a bit like in Power Rangers when they all combine to form one giant machine to take down the bad guys.
Now, of the two, diet is going to make a bigger difference than exercise. It’s a lot easier to just not eat the calories in the first place than it is to try and burn them off later. As they saying goes, abs aren’t made in the gym; they’re made in the kitchen.
There are no ‘bad’ foods in the sense that carbohydrates will ruin your fat loss or dairy is going to make you gain 50 pounds. However, if there’s one thing you should avoid, it’s trans fatty acids (TFAs). Studies have shown that these increase your intra-abdominal fat even if you’re in a caloric deficit which can cause severe health risks. Therefore, it’s heavily recommended to avoid sources of TFAs at all costs. The biggest culprits of this are in fast food, baked goods, frozen pizzas, and basically everything that you would typically label as an unhealthy item.
There are three main contributing factors towards your overall caloric intake: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The former two contain 4 calories per gram whilst fats contain 9 calories per gram. Of these, your main focus should be placed on protein which has been shown to increase satiety, increase lean body mass, and decrease fat mass. Therefore, eating more protein will help to keep you fuller for longer whilst aiding in muscle building and fat loss. Not too bad, huh? Fibre plays a similar role in satiety, but doesn’t aid in muscle building. So, it’s always a good idea to include a large source of protein and fibre with each meal.
Once you have your diet in check, the next step is to focus in on your workouts. Unfortunately, you can do as many crunches as you like, but unless you remove the layer of fat covering your abs, then you’re going to see them. Everyone has abs, but it’s about losing the fat around them in order to reveal them. Save the heavy duty ab workouts for further down the line in order to sculpt the muscles exactly how you want them.
In order to lose fat, you should use a combination of strength training and cardio. Strength training helps to build lean tissue which in turn burns calories whilst cardio will help to really shed those extra pounds. Aim to do at least 3-4 strength-training sessions per week focusing on compound movements, and then add on 1 or 2 30 minute cardio sessions either on your rest days or after your workouts.
As much as diet and exercise are important, a huge factor that’s often overlooked is stress. Cortisol plays a massive role in body composition and can affect the effectiveness of our results. Therefore, if you want to make the best progress possible, you should also be sleeping well and making sure to have some down-time to help both your mind and body.
Lastly, it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated. If you’re not hydrated, not only will your physical performance slip, so will your mentality. You’ll become lethargic, weak, irritable, and unmotivated. There’s now a wide range of evidence to suggest the importance of hydration and electrolytes (1, 2, 3, 4), so aim to drink one glass of water with and between every meal.
At the end of the day, fat loss is actually pretty straightforward. The main points are:
1. Eat less calories than you burn
2. Eat protein and fiber with every meal
3. Avoid all trans fats
4. Take care of your stress levels
5. Focus on strength training and use cardio to boost fat loss
6. Stay hydrated and consider taking a supplement to support your hydration levels
If you take care of these 6 points, then the results will take care of themselves!