A flat stomach is probably one of the most desirable physical traits people strive for, but excess belly fat is also a marker for health issues. Eliminating belly fat can be tricky if you do not have the proper guidance, and spot reducing naturally will not work. There are several ways to reduce the fat around the abdomen naturally, and here are the top 10 tips for a flat stomach.
Why you should worry about abdominal fat
Some things like genetics play a role in where excess fat is stored, but too much fat in the abdomen is an indicator of disease risk. Excess abdominal fat is a risk factor for several health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Use a body composition measurement like waist to hip ratio to measure your risk. Healthy ranges for men would be 0.9 or less and 0.85 or less in women. Knowing where your numbers are can help you see a non-physical incentive to focus on a flat stomach. Read more about why body composition is essential: Here’s Why The BMI is Flawed.
Add cardio to your exercise routine. For weight loss, 300 minutes of cardiovascular activity is recommended. Cardiovascular conditioning can be broken up throughout the week to equal about one hour a day, split throughout the day if you do not have time to get it all in one session. Studies have shown that cardio helps with abdominal weight management and midsection strengthening. Activities such as walking help achieve the daily recommendations. Check out the benefits of walking in 10 Underrated Benefits of Walking For Exercise. The main goal is to reduce sedentary time throughout the day to keep your metabolism firing.
Sometimes our stomach does not have excess fat but is inflamed. We have something called gut flora. The flora is a network of microorganisms residing in your digestive tract and contains bacteria lining your intestine to assist in food digestion. Irritation of the gut flora can lead to inflammation. Add these to your diet to help reduce bloat:
- Take probiotics and prebiotics to restore the good bacteria, aid in better digestion, and reduce inflammation.
- Take L-glutamine to help repair the gut wall lining.
- Take digestive enzymes with meals to help break down the trouble foods in your diet.
For more about gut health, read Why Gut Health is Important and 6 Ways to Improve it.
Increase Water Intake
Adequate water intake is essential to reducing bloat and body water retention. In addition, drinking water with meals helps you feel full, eat less, and drinking water can temporarily increase the calories you burn at rest. Finally, water is essential to aid digestion when adding more protein and fiber to your diet. For more tips on why you need to drink more water, read 7 Essential Reasons to Drink More Water.
Water can be a struggle to add to your diet if you are not used to drinking much of it. Read 6 Clever Ways to Drink More Water for tips on adding more water to your diet. You can also eat your water! Many foods are high in water, which adds to a healthy diet. To read about foods with high water content, read The Top 10 Water-Rich Foods That Hydrate You.
According to a study, people who consume high protein diets have lower abdominal fat. Additionally, diets with adequate protein intake are essential for muscle maintenance during weight loss and staying fuller longer. You should aim for protein intake between 25-30 grams per meal to assist in body weight management and lead to a flat stomach. Easy ways to add protein to your diet include:
- Adding a protein shake in between meals
- Top your foods with nuts like salads
- Eat protein with every meal like tofu, legumes, fish, poultry, beans, or eggs.
- Replace rice with quinoa
- Incorporate ancient grain bread and other cereal
There is research to suggest that increasing soluble fiber helps to achieve a flat stomach. The study suggested a 10g increase in soluble fiber lowered the risk of belly fat gain. In addition, soluble fiber helps to promote healthy gut flora by providing the nutrients it needs to help reduce belly fat. Sources of soluble fiber include sweet potato, oatmeal, fruits like apples, and black beans. Women should consume between 21-25 grams, and men should consume about 35 grams of soluble fiber daily. Don’t forget to have adequate water intake when increasing fiber!
Incorporate Monounsaturated Fats
It’s been found that diets rich in monounsaturated fats are associated with reduced body fat and metabolic risk factors like excess stomach fat. Specifically, a Mediterranean diet is linked to reduced central obesity in a review of several studies. This means eating foods like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds will help achieve a flat stomach.
It’s important to note that many of these foods have several nutrient benefits in one. Nuts like almonds are high in protein, monounsaturated fat, and fiber. Try adding these highly multi-nutritional foods to your diet for easy meal planning.
Resistance training can help reduce overall body fat and belly fat. You burn more fat when you have more muscle, so building muscles will increase your metabolic output. Especially with working the core, building the muscles in the abdomen can help reduce fat and give you that six-pack look. There are many types of resistance training to incorporate into your routine, and here are some examples:
- Classic forms like weight lifting
- Bodyweight workouts
- Pilates uses time under tension to help build muscle
Stress can inhibit your goals for a flat stomach. You could be doing everything right, but stress-related hormones can cause you to retain fat. One stress hormone, cortisol, is directly related to higher abdominal fat, especially in women. Over time, prolonged stress may lead to other gut-related disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, causing inflammation and the appearance of a larger stomach.
Stress may also cause you to eat more. It’s crucial to tackle why you are eating more with stress to help reduce the risk of excess belly fat. Read Emotional Eating: 5 Things You Need to Know for tips on emotional eating. For overall stress management assistance and ways to cope, read 7 Effective Strategies to Manage Stress.
Exercise While Standing
Try doing more standing exercises the next time you are in the gym. Standing while resistance training engages your core helping you to build its muscles. In addition, one study found standing exercises increased muscle activation by up to 25%, which will assist in toning the core for a flat stomach. Finally, when we stand with activity, we improve our balance and posture, which helps elongate the spine lifting the abdominals to appear flatter.
Focus on Sleep
Resting is probably the most important thing you need to do for fat loss toward a flat stomach. Lack of sleep is like putting your body through stress, causing an increase in the hormone in cortisol which causes fat gain. Your body does significant fat burning while it sleeps and those with a chronic lack of quality sleep have a 55-85% risk of obesity, including abdominal fat gain. Adults should aim for adequate rest for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Watch Sugar Intake
For a flat stomach, reduce your sugar intake. Added sugar, not including those found in fruit, aids in excess fat in the stomach. In addition, limit refined carbohydrates in the diet, which are mainly processed and include excess sugars. Several studies link excess sugar to increased waist size, so you should aim for less than 10% of your daily calories with added sugar.
A Flat Stomach Does Not Happen Overnight
It’s important to note not to get frustrated as you move toward the goal of a flatter stomach; usually, with fat loss, the abdominal fat is the last to go. These tips help you focus on a flat stomach and overall fat loss, and staying consistent is essential. Read Fat Loss: 5 Things You Need to Know for more information on fat loss.