As a personal trainer and fitness coach I receive numerous questions each day on how to reduce abdominal fat. Typically, people request specific exercises that they believe will address the issue. While working the abs can create muscle and improve core strength, nutrition and lifestyle habits are the key to seeing true results. Everyone has some abdominal fat, even those who have a flat stomach. However, too much belly fat affects your overall health. Some of the fat is directly under the skin (subcutaneous) and is the easiest to lose. However, you also have deeper fat called visceral fat that is around your heart, lungs, liver, and other organs. You need some visceral fat to cushion your organs. However, if you have too much you may be at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.
There is no magic supplement or secret diet that will reduce belly fat. However, here are 7 tips for reducing the visceral abdominal fat and improving overall health. Making several changes at once can be overwhelming and even discouraging. Many people get caught in a spiral of repeatedly starting and stopping. Try committing to just one of these for seven days. Be mindful of how you feel at the end of the week. Then choose another goal to tackle the following week. Small changes add up to a big difference over time.
- Eat lots of plant based foods that are high in fiber. Women should have a minimum of 25 grams per day and for men it is a minimum of 38 grams per day. Fiber helps to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) levels. It control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar. Fiber also aids in achieving healthy weight because high fiber foods tend to be be more filling than low fiber foods. Thus, you are likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer.
- Make a decision to reduce added sugars and fructose and to eliminate sugar sweetened beverages entirely. Consider eating whole fruit which has fiber and many health benefits. Read all labels and keep in mind that sugars and fructose can hide in items like bread and ketchup.Sugar is half glucose and half fructose, and fructose in significant amounts can only be metabolized by the liver. When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver is overcome with fructose and must turn it into fat. Studies have shown that it increases belly and liver fat, leading to insulin resistance and metabolic problems.
- Balance your fats by cutting back on processed foods containing vegetable oils (corn, soybean, sunflower, and cottonseed oils) and increasing Omega-3 fats. Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for a healthy diet. They are different than most other fats, because they are not just stored and used for energy. Rather, they are biologically active and play important roles in inflammation. While both are essential, the problem arises when our diet consists of far more Omega-6 than Omega-3, because the two will compete for the same conversion enzymes . Omega-6 fatty acids are the building blocks of pro-inflammatory hormones, while Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. The average American consumes far too many Omega-6 fats from processed food and way too little of the Omega-3 (found in salmon, albacore tuna, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds). The average ratio is 16:1 and higher. The amount of Omega-3 in the American diet has dropped nearly 90 percent in the last three decades. A diet high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 3 will not only result in changes to how we store body fat, but could ultimately lead to chronic illness such as heart disease.
- Ditch the white carbs. Your body breaks down white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes into glucose faster than table sugar and this increases your insulin levels.
- Skip or limit the alcohol. Alcohol provides no nutrients and is simply empty calories. In addition, it can cause bloating and fat storage around the midsection, as well as dehydration.
- Exercise. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days per week. However, to really torch visceral fat you may need to increase the intensity once you have built endurance.
- Sleep more. A lack of sleep results in higher cortisol levels during the day. Cortisol is a hormone that is released that breaks down body tissues and when elevated depletes lean muscle. The body wants to maintain its normal circadian rhythm with proper light and dark periods for wakefulness and sleep. When these are altered, it has a negative effect on the body with accumulation of visceral fat.
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