Losing fat from around the belly is a common fitness goal. A range of exercises and lifestyle changes can help people achieve this.
Manufacturers of many specialty pills, drinks, and supplements claim that their products can lead to quick weight loss, eliminate stomach fat, or both.
However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to confirm that these products are safe or effective.
Meanwhile, a person can lose weight and reduce fat through proven natural methods, including changing the diet and getting specific types of exercise.
This article looks at some natural ways to lose belly fat. We also describe the factors that contribute to a buildup of fat in this area, and how this buildup can harm health.
Visceral fat — also known as abdominal, stomach, or belly fat — is a potentially harmful type that surrounds organs in the abdomen. Reducing the amount of abdominal fat can have significant health benefits for some people.
Visceral fat releases hormones that can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, and other health problems. It is sometimes called “active fat” because of its active role in producing various hormones.
This type of fat is less visible than subcutaneous fat, which sits just below the skin. However, a tangible increase in waist circumference can indicate can increase in visceral fat.
Visceral fat is highly responsive to what a person eats. Making key dietary changes and doing the right kinds of exercise can reduce levels of this type of fat.
The following sections look at specific ways to help get rid of belly fat.
One of the most effective ways to lose body fat is to eat fewer calories than the body burns. This leads to fat loss throughout the body, including the abdomen.
Eating fewer calories than the body uses up creates a caloric deficit. This can help burn both visceral fat and excess subcutaneous fat.
Also, low calorie foods are often more nutritious than high calorie foods.
Eating fewer foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition — for example, processed foods, baked goods, and french fries — is a beneficial way to create a caloric deficit and improve health.
Try replacing these foods with nutritious, low calorie options, such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, and whole grain foods.
Taking in excess sugar seems to be a main driver of weight gain, especially in the abdominal area.
A high sugar intake may increase levels of visceral fat by promoting insulin resistance and spurring inflammation throughout the body.
It can be easy to consume high levels of sugar in drinks without realizing it. Check the sugar contents of beverages such as soda and sweetened tea and coffee.
For many people, reducing the amount of sugar in hot drinks and eliminating soda can remove excess sugar from their diets.
Simple, or refined, carbohydrates are low in nutritional value but high in calories. These carbs are in white bread, refined grains, and sugary foods and drinks.
Research has also linked refined carbs to the development of abdominal fat.
Try replacing simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates. These exist in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods.
Fruits and vegetables can provide complex carbohydrates, which are a healthful, low calorie alternative to simple carbohydrates.
Fruits and vegetables also add fiber to the diet. Research suggests that fiber can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes — a condition linked with visceral fat accumulation and overweight — and help regulate blood sugar.
Lean protein sources include nuts, legumes, and lean meats. Adding these to the diet can help encourage feelings of fullness after eating and reduce cravings for sugary snacks.
At the same time, it can help to reduce or eliminate the consumption of fatty meats, including beef and processed meats.
Some dietary fat is necessary in a healthful diet, but not all fat sources are equally beneficial.
Consuming healthful fats instead can help reduce overall body fat and have a range of benefits.
Healthful high fat foods include:
- chia seeds
- fatty fish
- nuts and nut butters
Exercise can lead to weight loss throughout the body, including around the belly.
It is not possible to reduce fat in certain areas only. This means that targeted exercises — such as crunches and sit-ups — will not necessarily burn abdominal fat better than other exercises.
However, these exercises can strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles, making them appear more defined.
Making a point of increasing activity levels throughout the day helps burn calories. Moving more can also strengthen the muscles and elevate the mood.
Tips for increasing daily activity levels include:
- taking regular stretching breaks when sitting for long periods
- taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- walking or cycling instead of driving or taking public transit
- parking further from a destination
- using a standing desk
Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, gets the heart pumping. It also burns calories, helping reduce body fat and tone muscles.
Some cardio exercises include:
- using an exercise bike
High intensity interval training (HIIT) pairs bouts of intense exercise with periods of less intense activity to burn calories.
For instance, HIIT might involve a cycle of walking for 3 minutes, then running for 30 seconds.
Research from 2011 suggests that HIIT may reduce body fat more effectively than other types of exercise.
Because of the short periods involved, HIIT may also be a good way to ease into an exercise routine.
Strength training can also improve bone and joint health. This is because stronger muscles are better able to support the body, which reduces strain on the bones and joints.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend doing strength training 2 days per week.
Everyone has some fat around the belly, but large quantities can be harmful. People are more likely to develop large amounts of visceral fat if they have diets high in processed and sugary foods.
Meanwhile, abdominal fat naturally increases with age, especially in females. Certain medical conditions may also increase visceral fat.
For many people, reducing the amount of abdominal fat can significantly improve their health. People can achieve this by adopting a healthful diet and exercise routine.