Hard—but not impossible.
The good news is, you don’t need to do thousands of sit-ups, take tons of supplements, starve yourself, or undergo drastic surgery to tone and tighten your waistline. Here are 10 simple rules I share with my clients to help them win the belly-fat battle—once and for all.
1. Stop Doing 500 Crunches a Day
Doing tons of crunches (and other ab exercises) will build muscle in the abdominals, but it won’t do anything to burn your belly fat. Unfortunately, you cannot reduce the amount of fat in one specific area of your body. You must lose overall fat throughout the entire body to trim your waistline. Keep reading to learn how.
2. Lift Weights
Lifting weights will help build muscle, prevent muscle loss and boost fat loss. Although spot reduction is not possible (see above), performing resistance training exercises that work large (and multiple) muscle groups will burn the most calories.
3. Eat Right
Training hard will give you muscular abs, but if you continue to eat junk, you will forever have a layer of belly fat on top of those muscles. Your first step is to stop eating processed food, and start eating whole foods like the ones below.
Protein: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, cottage cheese, whey protein, etc.
Veggies: Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, kale, salad, etc.
Fruits: Banana, apple, orange, strawberry, raspberry, etc.
Healthy fats: Fish oil, nuts, flax seed, olive oil, etc.
Carbs: Whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oats, etc.
Use these simple tips to improve your nutrition habits: Eat breakfast. Eat every three hours. Eat proteins, veggies and fruit with every meal. Eat the majority of your carbs immediately after your workout. Drink two cups of water with every meal. Eat unprocessed, whole foods 90 percent of the time.
4. Kick Up Your Cardio
Along with lifting weights and eating right, do 15 to 45 minutes of intense cardio three times per week to help burn more calories and reduce overall body fat.
5. Say Goodbye to Alcohol
Remember: calories consumed while drinking count, too, so be careful what you put in your glass. You can have alcohol on a very limited basis, but if you continue to drink daily, you can forget about losing your belly fat. This means limiting your drinking to only a couple drinks on Fridays and Saturdays at the most.
6. Cut Down on Crappy Carbs
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the years. The fact is, they’re needed for energy, but most people eat a lot more carbs than they actually need. Any extra carbs taken in over the course of the day will be stored as fat, so it’s important to maintain a healthy balance. You can continue to eat fruits and vegetables, but reduce the amount of pasta and breads that you consume throughout the day. And when you do go for grains, make them whole grains. (See suggestions here.)
7. Eat More Calories
Nope, that’s not a type-o. The majority of my personal-training clients who first start with me are actually eating too few calories as opposed to eating too many. If you aren’t getting enough calories, you’re slowing your body’s metabolism down, which means you’ll retain more fat than if you were to eat the proper amount of calories. Eating too few calories will also cause you to burn muscle, not fat, for energy, causing you to be skinny and fat. (Yes, it really happens.) And remember that since calories are energy, eating too few of them will tank your energy stores, meaning you’ll have a hard time getting through the day, much less putting in a good workout.
To find out how many calories you should be consuming, use an online calculator like this to crunch the numbers for you. Then, keep a food diary (or use a program like My Fitness Pal—it’s free!—which totals your daily calories for you) so you can keep track.
8. Eat More Protein
Your body burns more energy processing proteins than it does processing carbs or fat. So if you want to burn fat, take in more protein. Of course, you want to get this protein from a quality source. That means your source of protein should not be a burger from McDonalds or a sausage pizza from Domino’s.
9. Take in Healthy Fats
In our fat-free obsessed world, it’s hard for some to comprehend that fat does not necessarily make you fat. If you don’t consume enough fat, your body will hold on to all of the fat it already has and not burn any more off. Again, you want to take in healthy sources of fat, like the ones on the list above.
10. Stay Motivated
Just looking at yourself in the mirror will not give you an idea of what kind of progress you’re making. You need to make clear-cut, black-and-white assessments to track your progress. This can be done by recording your weight and body composition, taking your body measurements (here’s a how-to tutorial), and taking pictures of yourself in 30-day increments.
One final thought: Remember that this belly fat didn’t appear overnight—and neither will your six pack abs. If you’re looking for a shortcut, you’re in for a rude awakening. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication over a period of several weeks and months to achieve your goals. But if you stay dedicated and keep yourself on the right track, the results will come—you just have to stick with it.
Brian Maher is a personal trainer in Center City Philadelphia who specializes in weight loss and nutritional counseling. He is the owner of Philly Personal Training, a company offering convenient in-home personal training packages to busy individuals looking to improve their fitness levels. To learn more about Brian and his services, visit www.phillypersonaltraining.com. Read all of Brian’s posts for Be Well Philly here.