This is probably one of the most popular questions we get day in and day out, month in and month out – you get the point! There is not one “best way” to lose fat. Each person responds differently to different training programs and different scenarios, however personal trainers can apply different principles and techniques when designing their clients’ programs.
Exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups and are weight bearing (functional training) burn more calories per minute and are therefore better suited for fat loss than non-weight-bearing activities such as yoga and walking that do not use many muscles.
It is often assumed and maybe a myth that low-intensity exercises such as yoga and walking are good for burning fat. However, since the number of calories used per minute is much greater at a moderate to high intensity exercises than at a lower intensity exercises, the total number of fat calories expended during a moderate- to high-intensity workout is much greater than it is during a low- intensity workout of the same duration!
Much of the fat from adipose tissue (which is primarily used during exercise) is lost in the hours following exercise. The amount of fat lost after a workout depends on the exercise intensity during the workout. Interval training (exercise at a moderate to high intensity with short rests in between sets) is a great way to decrease overall body fat.
Both strength training (weights, machines) and endurance/aerobic training (running) have been shown to decrease body fat percentage, however aerobic training (swimming, walking, running) have a greater impact on fat loss than strength training alone but a combination of endurance and strength training results in more fat loss than either exercise done alone.
Overweight does not necessarily equal unhealthy. There are actually plenty of overweight people who are in excellent health! However it’s the fat in the abdominal cavity, the belly fat, that causes the biggest issues. If you have a lot of excess fat around your waistline, even if you’re not very heavy or overweight then you should take some steps to get rid of it.
There are actually a few proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.
My top 5 (evidence-based) ways to lose belly fat:
1. Don’t Eat (added) Sugar and Avoid Sugar-Sweetened Beverages!
Added sugar in anything is extremely unhealthy! Sugar is half glucose, half fructose… and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount. When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver gets flooded with fructose, and is forced to turn it all into fat. Studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly Liquid sugar (soda pop) is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories do not make you full in the same way as eating something, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating way more total calories then what you would eat! An alarming thing is studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children – so please remember this the next time your child asks for a pop!
2. Eating More Protein Helps to Reduce Belly Fat!
Protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to losing weight – bar none! It has been shown to reduce food cravings by up to 60% and boost your metabolism by 80-100 calories per day, as well you eat up to 400-500 fewer calories per day!! If your goal is to lose weight or “belly fat” then adding protein to your meals is the single most effective change you can do. Not only will protein help you lose weight but it can also help you avoid re-gaining the weight you have lost if you ever decide to abandon your weight loss efforts!
3. Cut (refined) Carbs From Your Diet!
Carbohydrate restriction is a very effective way to lose fat! Simply put when people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and over time studies have now shown that low-carb diets lead to 2-3 times more weight loss than low-fat diets. Just avoiding the refined carbs (white breads, pastas, etc) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein high. There are also numerous studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, showing that low-carb diets specifically target the fat in the belly and around the organs and liver which obviously is very important (see above).
4. Eat Foods High in Fiber!
It is often claimed that eating plenty of fiber can help with weight loss. This is very true, however it’s important to keep in mind that not all fiber is created equal! Viscous fibers (fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that “sits” in the gut) can have an effect on your weight loss.
This gel can dramatically slow down the movement of food through your stomach and slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients which results in a feeling of fullness and reduced appetite. By just adding an additional 10 – 14 grams of fiber per day to your diet you may decrease your calorie intake up to 10% which could lead to 5lbs lost over a few months! As well eating an extra 10 grams of soluble fiber per day may lead to reducing harmful “belly fat”. The best way to get more fiber in your diet is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables and fruit. Many different beans or legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like oats (without the added sugar!).
5. Aerobic Exercise is (very) Effective at Reducing Belly Fat!
Aerobic exercise is important for various reasons and obviously there is a ton of health benefits linked to aerobic exercise, however it may be the best for reducing “belly fat!” However… keep in mind that I’m not talking about abdominal exercises here. Spot reduction (losing fat in one spot) or doing endless amount of sit-ups is not possible and will not make you lose fat from the belly. Aerobic exercise has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies. (see above)