The unsightly appearance of belly fat is just the tip of the iceberg. The real danger lies in the fact that excess fat around your midsection, also known as visceral fat, can infiltrate your organs and result in serious health problems.
Visceral fat generates stress hormones such as cortisol and inflammatory compounds called cytokines that influence the body’s ability to produce insulin.
Consequently, in addition to obesity, you become more susceptible to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
To eliminate even the most stubborn excess stomach, implement these nine strategies and say goodbye to belly fat for good.
1. Don’t stop moving
There’s one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise.
Running, biking, or swimming—basically anything that gets your heart rate up—wins over resistance training when it comes to getting rid of the stuff.
A recent study from the University of Alberta found that jogging the equivalent of 12 miles a week is enough to melt belly fat.
2. Eat a high protein diet
You know that protein’s essential for a slimmer you.
But here’s why protein really needs to play a prime roll on your plate: Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren’t responding to it properly.
Insulin promotes fat storage—especially around your belly—and a diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance.
In one study, obese women who followed a diet for eight weeks that was roughly 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat lost significantly more fat—including visceral pudge—than women who stuck to a plan that was 16 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 26 percent fat.
3. Eat healthy fats (aka polyunsaturated fat)
Saturated fat packs on more visceral fat than polyunsaturated ones, according to a recent Canadian study.
When subjects ate 750 more calories daily for seven weeks—either in the form of palm oil (saturated) or sunflower oil (polyunsaturated)—the former gained more visceral fat while the latter gained more muscle mass and less body fat.
Polyunsaturated fats can be found in nuts, seeds, and fish.
4. Get sour
Obese people who consumed a tablespoon or two of vinegar daily for eight weeks showed significant decreases in body fat—particularly visceral fat—according to a 2016 Japanese study.
One theory is that the acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that burn up fat.
5. Get your namaste on
Postmenopausal women who tried yoga for 16 weeks reported significant reductions in visceral fat in one 2016 study.
If you’re just not that into downward dog, any sort of relaxation exercise (even simple deep breathing) can help.
The key is to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to belly fat.
6. Drink green tea
Moderate exercisers who stocked up on the antioxidants found in green tea—called catechins—were more likely to lose abdominal fat while exercising than those who didn’t take them.
One study put the daily dose at 625 mg—the equivalent of two or three eight-ounce cups of green tea.
7. Drink more water
It’s not uncommon to think you’re hungry when your body actually needs water, not food. Signs of thirst and hunger can easily get confused. The result is that you might eat more food and consume extra calories when your body is thirsty.
You can avoid this problem and lose weight faster if you stay hydrated. Fill a few bottles with water and keep them in the front of your well-stocked refrigerator. That way you’ll see them right away when you open the door to graze for food. Then, before you eat a meal or grab a snack, drink a full 6-8 ounces. You may decide that you don’t need to eat after all.
8. Get good sleep (with a consistent bedtime)
Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2015 University of Atlanta study.
As you likely already know, eight hours is ideal.
What’s more, women who wake up and go to bed at the same time each evening have lower levels of body fat, according to a recent study by Oxford University.
Chaotic sleep habits cause your internal clock to go haywire, which in turn causes your body to secrete fat-storing hormones like cortisol.