Thanksgiving just passed, Christmas is right around the corner, and New Year’s comes creeping right behind it. All these holidays mean one thing: food. This time of the year is full of happiness and cheer — and a hefty portion of weight gain if we don’t watch ourselves. With all those extra calories, those of us who are health-conscious might find ourselves spending more time in the gym trying to lose belly fat fast and burn off that five-cheese macaroni and cheese and pecan pie indulgence.
For many people, and females, in particular, it seems as if everything we eat goes to our midsection. We crunch, burpee, and rock out to Shaun T’s Hip Hop Abs, but that stubborn belly fat still won’t budge.
Unfortunately, fat in your midsection is not only an aesthetic concern — it’s a health concern. There are two types of fat: visceral and subcutaneous. Subcutaneous fat lies just below the skin. It’s that jiggly fat around your midsection, thighs, and arms and is the most difficult to lose.
Then there’s visceral fat. Visceral fat is the dangerous fat which wraps itself around your vital organs. Visceral fat increases your risk of stroke, certain types of cancers, and even dementia. Fortunately, you can easily lose visceral fat through diet and exercise.
Though getting rid of visceral fat should be the primary concern, many are preoccupied with what they can see, and that is subcutaneous fat. Our desire to lose belly fat fast has led to an alleged “health and wellness” market rampant with skinny teas, fat burning pills, waist trainers, stomach sweatbands, and 30-day ab challenges. Are you wasting your time using these methods, or can you crunch, waist-train, and sip yourself to a six-pack?
How can I lose belly fat fast?
Okay, so my title was deceptive and a mere ploy to get you here. Looks like it worked. Unfortunately, there is no way to lose belly fat fast — well, probably not as fast as you would like.
All those skinny teas, detoxes, and stomach sweatbands don’t work. Why? Because they cause you to lose water weight either through diarrhea or excessive sweating. Losing water weight is fine if you’re a fitness model with an upcoming shoot or have a fitness competition in the next few days. However, understand that you’re not losing fat. As soon as you rehydrate, that water weight will come back.
Furthermore, it’s impossible to target belly fat alone. When you lose weight, you will lose it proportional to your existing body shape. For example, if you carry most of your body fat in your bust, you’ll notice your boobs shrinking before anything else. If most of your fat is stored in your hips, you’ll notice those getting smaller first. While you can’t change your body shape, you can alter your body composition and get that flat tummy and toned body you’ve been looking for. Here’s how.
Work on your nutrition
You’ve probably heard the statement that abs are made in the kitchen. It sounds silly, but it is ridiculously true. There is no amount of crunches, Russian twists, or flutter kicks that you can do to overpower an off-kilter diet. To lose belly fat — or any type of fat, for that matter — you need to be operating in a caloric deficit. That means that you must consume fewer calories than your body expends.
The number of calories your body burns while at rest is known as your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Essentially, if you were to lie in bed all day, your body would still burn calories as it works to control your body’s temperature, breathe, circulate blood, and power all the other functions necessary to keep you alive. This is your BMR.
But assuming that you don’t lie in bed all day, we need to take this one step further. Any physical activity or exercise you do throughout the day burns additional calories. When you combine the calories you burn from physical activity with your BMR, you get your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE. Your TDEE is often referred to as your maintenance calories. Maintenance calories are the number of calories you should consume each day to maintain your current weight.
For example, if your BMR is 1600 calories and you burn 400 calories through physical activity, your TDEE is 2000 calories. If you’re trying to maintain weight, eat no more than 2000 calories per day. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, you should eat less than your TDEE. How much less? Well, a pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories, so if you want to lose a pound each week, a caloric deficit of 500 calories each day can help you accomplish that goal.
While there are tons of BMR and TDEE calculators floating around the internet, take those numbers with a grain of salt. For a more accurate reading, ask the staff at your gym if they have a way of testing your body composition. If not, reach out to a DexaFit store near you. A test costs about $150. You can also sign up for a monthly plan which includes a set number of scans per year. The price is a bit steep but worth it if you’re interested in learning about your body composition and obtaining a baseline to kickstart your fitness goals.
Also, be sure to check with your insurance as sometimes these kinds of tests and weight loss programs are covered by health insurance plans.
Consider tracking your macronutrients.
As long as you regularly burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. However, if you want to expedite your weight loss journey, consider tracking your macronutrients, or macros for short.
Macros include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Your body requires large quantities of these macronutrients to help your body grow, repair, and function properly. Counting macros can help you lose belly fat fast thanks to its focus on nutritional, whole foods versus processed foods.
If you’re counting macros, a certain percentage of your daily calories will need to come from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Different websites offer different ratios, but a good starting point is 40 percent of calories from carbs, 30 percent from fat, and 30 percent from protein. You can adjust the ratios according to how your body responds.
To clarify, let’s say that you’ve determined that you need to eat 1800 calories each day to meet your weight loss goals. If you’re merely counting calories, you could eat 40 Oreo cookies each day and meet your caloric needs. Nevertheless, you’re not going to feel very good and will probably be quite hungry.
Counting macros will help ensure that you are feeding your body the nutrients it truly needs to feel satiated and function optimally. Flexible dieting (aka counting macros) also removes the stringent guidelines placed by other diets that prevent you from eating entire groups of food such as meat, carbs, and other “evil foods.”
Of course, a balanced diet with lots of veggies, lean protein, and complex carbs is ideal, but you don’t need to feel guilty about the occasional indulgence because if it fits your macros, you can eat it.
Food to help you lose belly fat fast
I’m here to tell you that there is no magic food that will help you shed pounds. You’ve probably heard about green tea, chili peppers, and fish and their alleged ability to help you lose belly fat fast.
While some of these foods might boost your metabolism a bit, consuming these foods without following an otherwise healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis will do nothing for you. That said, here are some foods that when consumed in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise can boost your metabolism and help you in your weight loss journey.
- Protein-rich foods: Foods high in protein make you feel fuller faster and also require more energy (calories) to digest. Just be sure to choose your protein sources wisely. Plant-based protein is best since plants are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. If you’re an unyielding carnivore, opt for lean protein like chicken, turkey, or pork tenderloin.
- Water: A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that drinking water increases metabolic rate in both men and women by 30 percent. Another study by German researchers found that drinking cold instead of room temperature water further increased metabolism. This increase is likely due to the extra effort your body has to exert to warm up the water.
- Spicy foods: Capsaicin is a compound found in chili peppers. It’s what makes peppers spicy, and a study found that capsaicin promotes fat oxidation.
- Green tea: Green tea is rich in catechins. Catechins are a type of disease-fighting flavonoid and antioxidant. Studies have also suggested that catechins may help prevent and improve obesity.
Amp up your workouts
You can lose weight by improving your nutrition. However, if you want to keep that fat off — and expedite your weight loss journey — you’ll need to include exercise into your routine sooner or later.
Include some cardio in your workouts.
Cardiovascular exercise, cardio for short, is any form of exercise in which your heart rate and breathing rate are elevated. Whether you’re on the treadmill, row machine, circuit training, or doing some really heavy lifting, you’re doing cardio. Once you get into your target heart rate zone, cardio allows you to burn a decent amount of calories in a relatively short period of time.
Incorporate high-intensity interval training into your workouts.
If you want to burn more calories in a shorter period of time, high-intensity interval training is the way to go. Commonly referred to as HIIT, this method involves bouts of balls-to-the-wall intensity followed by short recovery periods. This type of training keeps your heart rate up, allowing you to burn more calories during a short span of time. It’s also more fun than monotonous steady-state cardio.
On a treadmill, a session of HIIT might look something like this:
- Walk at 3.0 for one minute
- Sprint at 8.0 for one minute
- Jog at 5.0 for one minute
- Walk at 3.0 for one minute
- Sprint at 8.5 for one minute
- Repeat for 10 minutes or a mile, whichever comes last.
This is what my treadmill HIIT currently looks like, but adjust it according to your workout preferences and fitness level.
HIIT can also be incorporated into your strength training routine via circuit training. The goal is to keep your heart rate up by minimizing rest periods in between exercises. Circuit training helps you increas muscular strength and endurance while enhancing your cardiorespiratory system.
Here’s an example of a circuit training routine:
- Upper body exercise: Bent over rows for one minute
- Lower body exercise: Deadlifts for one minute
- Compound exercise: Mountain climbers for one minute
- Sprint: Jump rope for one minute
- Rest: Grab a drink of water and set your music for the round.
- Repeat: Repeat this circuit six times for a 30-minute workout.
Include some strength training in your workouts
A lot of females think that lifting weights will make them look like a dude. Not so. To begin with, women don’t have the testosterone levels to bulk up like a man. Instead, you will build muscle definition and increase strength. You can get bulky lifting weights, but that would require a lot of time, heavy lifting, and on-point nutrition.
Lifting weights helps you lose body fat. When you lift weights (and not baby weights, weights that require a bit of effort), you increase your lean muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active and requires energy to be maintained. Therefore, the more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your BMR (the number of calories your body burns while at rest).
Strength training also reduces your risk of osteoporosis, reduces your risk of injury, and improves posture. Furthermore, weight lifting enhances mood and reduces stress, so get off the treadmill and pick up those weights.
30 percent of the world’s population is overweight or obese. 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. And the fact that the weight loss industry rakes in about $64 billion each year
Nevertheless, we all want a quick fix. That’s why you can’t scroll through Instagram without seeing some half-naked girl promoting skinny tea. It’s why the percentage of liposuction patients is increasing each year. It’s the reason why waist trainer-obsessed chicks are walking around looking like a failed photoshop edit.
There are no miracle treatments or magic products. The only tried and true method for long-term and healthy weight loss is a focus on nutrition and exercise.
Though I am neither a nutritionist nor a personal trainer, I am passionate about nutrition and exercise. I love researching and learning new things and would love to help you out any way I can. Leave comments and questions below, and let’s go on this fitness journey together.