Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is the fat that surrounds vital organs deep within the abdomen.
This fat not only affects how you look, but it’s also a significant risk factor for many serious conditions, including
- Type II diabetes
- Heart diseases
- Coronary artery disease
- Some cancers
- Sleep apnea
- Shorter life expectancy
So, yeah, if you have a bulging belly, you gotta do something about it. Otherwise, suffer the dire consequences. And in today’s post, I’m going to show you how to get rid of it for good.
23 Effective Ways to Lose Belly Fat (Backed by Science)
Without further ado, here are 23 easy-to-follow strategies to melt that stubborn tummy fat away, backed by scientific studies.
1. Eat More Healthy Fats
Many weight-conscious dieters make the blunder of skimping on fats to speed up weight loss.
The truth is, you need fats as much as you need carbs and proteins in your diet.
Otherwise, cutting them is like throwing the holy water with the baby still in it.
But here is the little caveat.
Not all fats are created equal in how they affect your belly fat and overall health and well being.
Some are absolutely bad (like trans fats, see tip Number), whereas others (like monounsaturated fats) are essential to a nutritious diet.
Healthy fats increase satiety levels, improve fat burning, increase metabolism, regulate blood sugar levels, etc.
For more on the benefits of fats, check my post here.
Research published in the journal Diabetic Care reported that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats is more effective at regulating blood sugar levels than a high-carb diet
Another study published in the medical journal Appetite revealed that long-chain omega-3 fats can help control hunger.
This research found that when subjects switched to a 1,600-calorie MUFAs rich diet, they shed a third of their belly fat in just a month.
Healthy fats are abundant in:
- Olives and olive oil
- Canola oil
- Flax oil
- Peanut butter
- Sesame seeds
- Pesto sauce
2. Count Your Calories
To lose weight, you’d need to create a calorie imbalance—consuming fewer calories than you burn. That’s weight loss 101.
In theory, this seems straightforward. But the difficulty lies in putting this principle into practice.
In fact, managing calorie (and food) intake in today’s world is no easy feat.
But here is the good news: learn how to count your calories.
Doing so can help provide you with a better idea of daily calorie consumption.
For instance, counting calories will let you know if you’re eating too little vegetables or too many fruits.
The average human being is terrible at guesstimating the amount of calories consumed during a meal, and the number of calories burnt during a workout.
Research out of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that subjects who were to taught how to keep track on calories consumed still missed roughly 18 percent of them.
Further research also has shown that people—both those who are overweight or those within a healthy weight—tend to overestimate the amount of calories burnt during exercise.
Research published in the Journal of The American Dietetic Associate revealed that food labels and restaurant menus can underestimate calorie counts by as much as 240 percent.
Learn how to log smarter.
There is a wide range of apps and online resources to help you simplify the calorie counting process—provided that you’re willing to engage in it regularly.
Here are few apps and websites:
- Lose it!
Also, consider wearing a fitness watch to help monitor calories burnt throughout the day, sleep patterns, etc.
To figure out how many calories you should eat each day, use this calculator
Remember: The exact amount of calories you need depends on many factors, including your:
- Training intensity,
- Fitness level,
- Body weight,
3. Eat A High-Protein Diet
Protein is an essential macronutrient for weight control. That I cannot emphasize enough.
Consuming foods rich in protein increases the release of the fullness hormone PYY.
Protein also helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss, and its amino acids are the building blocks of muscle recovery and growth.
For the full guide to protein, read this post.
Check out this research published in The FASEB Journal.
During the experiment, female subjects were instructed to follow a diet for two months that consisted of roughly 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 40 percent carb.
While, the control group stuck to a diet that was 16 percent protein, 26 percent fat, and 55 percent carbs.
For the study, all of the subjects exercised enough to shed two pounds per week, on average.
In the end, the first group lost drastically more fat—including belly fat—than the other group without losing muscle mass.
Protein is also ideal for weight maintenance.
This research revealed that participants who followed a high-protein diet were the most successful at keeping the extra pounds away long-term.
As a general guideline, roughly 30 to 35 percent of calories should come from lean sources of quality protein.
- Lean meats
- Whole eggs
- Nuts, and
4. Cut Back on Carbs
The reason there is so much hype around low-carb diets for fat loss is quite simple: they actually works.
Extreme carb restrictions will put you into ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body switches to burning ketone bodies (fat) as its primary source of fuel instead of glycogen (carbs).
Research revealed that eating plans with under 50 grams of carbs per day result in greater belly fat loss in overweight subjects.
In fact, experiments found that the consumption of high amounts the bad carbs, such as refined-grain pasta, white bread, sugary beverages, etc. leads to an increase in belly fat.
One example is this research that revealed that subjects who consumed four to five servings of white bread a day resulted in more belly fat gains than those who only had one serving of white bread, even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories.
Further research also has found that consuming low-carb diets resulted in reduced appetite, which is conducive to weight loss.
If you’re looking to lose weight fast, then consider reducing your carb intake to no more than 40 to 50 grams per day.
This is, by the way, the founding tenet of the ketogenic diet—and the best way to force your body into a state of ketosis.
In short, the keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb eating plan.
But, if you’re not into keto eating, then consider substituting refined carbs (the bad carbs) with whole grain foods, such as steel-cut oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread, bran flakes, leafy green veggies, and fruits.
5. Eat Probiotic Foods
Roughly 100 trillion microbes—collectively called the microbiome— live in your gut. And not all gut bacteria are created equal.
The microbes are often considered “good” or “bad.” The healthy kind assists the immune system, improves digestion, removes harmful toxins and substances, etc.
On the other hand, unhealthy microbes can cause digestion issues, skin problems, mental disorders, along with other issues that can take a toll on your health.
To have a healthy gut, you’d need to bring balance to your microbiome.
This is done by fostering the growth of the good guys by consuming foods containing probiotics.
But, what are probiotics?
Probiotics are various types of healthy bacteria found in a variety of foods and supplements.
Probiotics have a lot to offer, but more importantly, they help reduce tummy fat.
In research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects had two cups per day of fermented milk containing Lactobacillus Gasseri, a probiotic strain, for a period of three months.
The subjects reported a reduction in abdominal visceral fat by roughly 4.6 percent and subcutaneous fat by just over 3 percent.
Other experiments show similar results: Probiotics are not only conducive to weight loss, but also work very well for belly fat.
One major reason is that overweight individuals who find it hard to shed weight often have bacterial imbalances in their gut.
More specifically, they have an excess of the harmful bacteria and too little of the good strains.
To support the growth of probiotic bacteria, eat plenty of prebiotic foods that naturally pack in a lot of soluble fiber.
- Jerusalem artichokes,
7. Track Your Food Intake
What gets measured, gets managed.
That’s one of my favorite productivity quotes by the late Peter Drucker. And when it comes to losing weight, the saying couldn’t be more relevant.
Research conducted at the Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research found that subjects who kept tabs on their food intake lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.
In fact, the more participants monitored what they ate, the greater the fat loss.
Another study published in the Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics revealed that obese subjects who kept a food journal were the most successful at losing weight.
So, why is this so helpful?
Keeping a record of every meal is an essential way to monitor your daily caloric intake.
It can help you keep tabs on your everyday eating habits and get a concrete sense of your own eating patterns and triggers.
Here is a list of some of the best resources and apps to track calorie intake.
8. Add Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Diet
Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, one of which is regulating blood sugar levels.
The drink also works like a charm on visceral fat.
Research out of the Arizona State University found that drinking apple cider vinegar resulted in a 4 percent reduction in fasting blood sugars in participants with type II diabetes.
The drink also helps with weight loss.
A study published in the Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry journal found that adding two tablespoons of the drink to a diet can lead to significant weight loss in a three-month period.
In fact, participants who had one tablespoon per day shed 2.6 pounds on average, while those who drank two tablespoons daily lost over three pounds.
Why is it helpful?
Apple cider vinegar contains a compound known as acetic acid (a short-chain fatty acid) that has been shown to reduce visceral fat in several animal studies.
Ideally, shoot for two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar mixed with a cup of water per day.
9. Try Intermittent Fasting
Consisting of an eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting and windows of feasting (IF), intermittent fasting has recently become a hot item in the fat loss circles.
A review of research conducted on intermittent fasting reported that subjects experienced a 4 to 7 percent reduction in abdominal fat within a period of two to six months.
Another research published in the journal Cell Research revealed that intermittent fasting can cause drastic weight loss in just weeks in a mice group who were fed a typical diet for two days followed by a 24-hour fast.
So, how does IF work?
Intermittent fasting is effective due to a mix of the following mechanisms:
- Lowering insulin levels.
- Regulating ghrelin levels, AKA “the hunger ”
- Promoting the release of the human growth production.
- Increasing abdominal subcutaneous blood flow.
- Stimulating anti-inflammatory cells.
In the past few years, I’ve experimented with a few different IF schedules, and this is my personal favorite as it’s easy to implement once your body has adjusted to the new eating approach.
The 16/8 method involves fasting for 16 hours per day, then having all of your meals in an 8 hour period.
For example, you could restrict your food intake to the hours of 1 pm to 9 pm.
So, basically, you’re just hopping breakfast and making lunch your first meal of the day. Sure, feel free to drink your coffee in the morning—but that’s it.
Here is the little caveat.
As long as you’re opting for healthy foods and not overcompensating during the feeding windows, you’re on the right path.
Otherwise, skipping meals may prime you to overeat at your next meal, as research shows.
So, as a rule of thumb, eat nothing but low-carb foods and remember to keep tabs on your macros.
10. Drink Green Tea
When it comes to healthy beverages, green tea tops the list.
Green tea contains caffeine and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), both of which increase metabolism, speeding up the rate at which your body sheds calories.
Research reported that drinking green tea can increase metabolism by up to 4 percent. May not seem as much, but it adds up.
According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who drank green tea with caffeine saw their weight drop and also reduced their belly fat more than those who only had caffeine.
Shoot for 600 mg—or the equivalent of two to three cups of green tea per day.
11. Eat Plenty of Soluble Fiber
Also known as viscous fiber, soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel, forcing the food to take longer to pass through the digestive system.
This helps you feel full longer and tames your appetite, so you naturally consume less food.
Further, this type of fiber also reduces the amount of calories that your body soaks up from food.
An experiment, published in the journal Obesity, reported that for every ten grams increase in soluble fiber intake per day, subjects were able to reduce their tummy fat by roughly 3.7 percent over a period of five years.
Examples of ten grams of soluble fiber include two servings of black beans, two small apples, and two cups of asparagus
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that subjects who consumed more fiber from whole grains and cereals had less body fat and belly fat than those who skipped the fiber.
Soluble fiber can be found in different foods, including:
- Brussel sprouts
- Shirataki noodles
12. Eat Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are incredibly nutritious.
First, they’re the ideal source of omega-3 fats. These boost heart health, improve brain function, and reduce your risk of dementia.
And since they’re rich in protein, consuming fish makes you feel full for longer. You even shed more calories digesting protein than you do when you consume carbohydrates or fats.
They’re also an excellent source of vitamin D, and low in saturated fat.
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition that found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, like mackerel, is effective at reducing visceral fat.
Not only that, research conducted on subjects with liver fatty diseases reported that fish oil supplements can drastically reduce abdominal and liver fat.
Aim for, at least, three servings of fatty fish per week to get enough levels of omega-3’s.
The healthiest fatty fish include:
If you can’t (or won’t) consume fish, then get the omega-3’s from other foods, such as dark leafy greens, walnuts, almonds, and flax seeds.
Supplementing is also useful, especially cod fish oil as it’s the best, according to this research.
13. Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
Although fruit juices are rich in vitamins and minerals, the high sugar content proves their own undoing.
Even the most natural and wholesome fruit juices are loaded with sugar.
In fact, I’d go as far as to claim that fruit juice is as unhealthy as soda and other sugary beverages.
Not convinced? Check out this.
Here are some nutrition facts:
- One glass of orange juice has roughly six tablespoons of sugar, half of which is fructose.
- One glass of grape juice has roughly nine tablespoons of sugar, half of which is fructose.
- One glass of apple juice has roughly seven tablespoons of sugar, half of which, again, is fructose
The sugars found in fruit juice is particularly unhealthy since they’re digested quickly by the body, resulting in colossal blood sugar spikes.
And research agrees.
In an experiment published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, subjects who were fed fructose-sweetened drinks for 25 percent of total calories for three months experienced drastic belly fat gain.
And another research found that drinking fruit juice resulted in an increase in insulin resistance and belly fat gain.
In other words, fruit juice is, basically, another sugary beverage in disguise. To avoid at all time.
Replace fruit juice with water, sparkling water, or unsweetened ice tea.
14. Shun Trans Fats
As previously stated, not all fats are created equal.
The bad villain of the fat family is the trans fat. These are what MUST be purged from your eating menu.
Trans fats are made in an industrial process by which vegetable oils are converted to solid fats simply by pumping them with hydrogen atoms.
What’s so bad about them?
A lot, really.
Research has linked trans fats to heart diseases, inflammation, insulin resistance, and more importantly, abdominal fat gain.
A 6-year study published in the journal Obesity reported that monkeys who consumed high-trans-fat diet gained 33 percent more belly fat than monkeys who were given a diet rich in monounsaturated fats.
Another research out of the Wake Forest University also found that trans fats boost the amount of fat accumulated around the midsection.
Trans fats are primarily found in the manufacturing of baked goods, such as crackers, potato chips, cookies, snack foods, some margarines and spreads, and many other packaged foods.
Also, read ingredient labels carefully and steer clear from products that contain trans fats. These are usually listed as “partially hydrogenated” fats.
15. Avoid Sugar-Sweetened Drinks
Sugar is terrible for you. That, by now, should come as no surprise.
And one type of sugar that’s especially bad is liquid fructose—the building block of sugar-sweetened beverages.
In fact, sugar drinks are even more dangerous than junk foods.
One example is a 10-week experiment that reported a drastic belly fat gain in subjects who consumed drinks high in fructose.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, beverages sweetened with fructose corn syrup may increase belly fat.
Further research reported in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society found a direct link between soda consumption and an increase in waist circumference.
To lose belly fat, what I’d recommend is to completely avoid drinks, such as soda, smoothies, and sweet tea, as well as alcoholic mixers high on sugar.
You can replace these drinks with water, unsweetened black coffee, and green teas.
Or, at the very least, minimize the amount you’re drinking to a couple of cans per week.
17. Get Plenty of Sleep
Whether you’re looking to lose belly fat or be more productive at your job, getting a good night’s sleep should be a priority.
In fact, shut-eye is essential for many aspects of health, not to mention belly fat.
According to a Wake Foret University study, getting no more than five hours of sleep per night increases visceral fat levels.
Not only that, sleep deprivation can set you up to consume about 300 extra calories a day, according to the New York Obesity Center.
And the effects are also drastic long term.
A 16-year study, 68,000 women who logged in less than five hours of sleep per night were likely to gain weight than those who slept seven hours or longer per night.
Research also has associated sleep deprivation with a number of conditions that contribute to excess visceral fats.
- Increased concentration of the hormone cortisol. See tip number.
- Reduced insulin sensitivity
- Reduced levels of the satiety hormone leptin and increased secretion of hunger-inducing ghrelin.
- Increased fatigue and moodiness.
Shoot for at least seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep during the night’s time. Add naps, too.
If you’re suffering from acute sleep issues, such as sleep apnea, consult with a doctor and get treated ASAP.
18. Go Easy on The Alcohol
They call it a beer belly for a reason.
In tiny amounts, alcohol can be very beneficial, but, in excess, it can lead to real diet damage.
A single serving of wine, beer, or spirits can pack in roughly 120 to 150 calories, and if you tend to overindulge, you can end with severe calorie overload.
Not only that, clocking at about seven calories per gram, alcoholic drinks provide roughly twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein.
Plenty of research has reported that excessive alcohol intake makes you gain weight.
One example is a study published in Obesity that found that alcoholic drinks make your brain more sensitive to the smell of food, increasing appetite.
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying that you should give up beer altogether if you enjoy it.
But a little moderation can go a long way in helping you reduce your waist size.
19. Reduce your Stress Levels
I know I know.
For most of us, stress is a part of life. It’s here to stay.
Unfortunately, being stressed out all the time sets you up for belly fat.
In fact, even if you exercise religiously and eat nothing but whole foods, elevated stress levels can prevent you from shedding weight—it might even cause weight gain long term.
Stress makes you fat on the account of cortisol, a hormone that’s essential to many processes, including the fight or flight instinct, signaling bed time, etc.
But here is the kicker.
Science found that high levels of the hormone boost appetite and trigger chemical reactions that lead to abdominal fat storage.
What matters most is how you handle it.
And the good news is, by reducing your stress levels, you’d be able to tame your cortisol level.
Here are few measures you can take to manage stress:
- Practice yoga
- Meditate before going to sleep or early in the morning
- Slow down your breath—especially when life becomes too much to handle
- Engage in pleasurable activities that release stress
- Keep a stress journal to identify and deal, constructively, with regular stressors
- Learn to say no
- Do not stretch your daily schedule too thin
- Exercise regularly to blow off steam
- Get consoling—when needed.
- Get enough sleep
- Be proactive
20. Perform Resistance Training
If you want to speed up your weight loss efforts, you must add strength training to the mix.
There is no way around that.
Not only will resistance training help you burn mad calories, but also increase and preserve muscle mass.
Research reported that resistance training to be super beneficial for people with prediabetes, type II diabetes, and other metabolic issues.
For instance, this experiment revealed that a mix of strength training and cardio exercise is most effective in reducing visceral fat in overweight teenagers.
How to get the most of strength training for fat loss?
Quite simple. Just incorporate the following guidelines into your training program:
Start out training with a personal trainer. This will help you nail good form from the get-go—key to injury free and efficient training.
Combine it with cardio. How? By adding kettlebells, battle ropes, medicine ball exercises.
Do compound moves. Spot reduction is a myth. Instead, do multi-joint, full-body exercises that target many muscles at once. Examples include squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses, burpees, etc.
Go heavy or go home. Research shows that opting for heavier weight with fewer reps is most useful for shedding body fat. And don’t worry about getting bulked up.
21. Start Running
The main reasons I got into running—just like many—is to lose weight and get rid of my bulge—which is something I succeeded at for the last few years.
And I bet you can do it, too.
Running is an efficient way to burn calories and improve health.
In fact, it’s one of the ideal ways to ensure you’re meeting the calorie deficit needed for fat loss.
On average, expect to burn 500 to 700 calories per hour of running.
Sure, the faster and more intense you run, the more calories you’re going to burn.
What’s more? The sport is one of the most convenient of all. All you need is a pair of good shoes, and off you go.
Research shows that running is one of the ideal exercises for shedding belly fat.
One example is a study published in the American Journal of Physiology that found that running roughly 12 miles a week is most effective for belly fat loss.
So, what are you waiting for?
Get on the running path ASAP
Here are a few sources to get you started on the right foot:
Not a runner?
Then you got plenty of cardio options to choose from. These include swimming, biking, rowing, elliptical machines, boxing, etc.
Or, at the very least, spend more time on your feet.
- Some options include:
- Walk to work instead of driving,
- Take the stairs instead of the elevators,
- Do jump rope during the five-minute commercial breaks,
- Clean the house,
Over time, all of these activities add up.
For more ways on how to incorporate more exercise into your life, check this post.
22. Do HIIT Twice Per Week
High-intensity interval training, as the name implies, consists of alternating between intense exercise intervals with recovery periods of low-intensity training.
And as far as exercise research shows, HIIT sheds body fat like nothing else, especially fat that accumulates around the organs of your stomach.
Greek researchers found that performing intervals helped subjects lose more belly fat than moderate steady-state cardio training.
Another research published in the Journal of Sports & Physical Fitness showed that HIIT style workouts increase metabolism. This means you continue burning calories at a higher rate for several hours post workout.
To give HIIT a go, try this simple bodyweight routine.
Do as many reps as possible with good form of each exercise in the order shown. Take 20 seconds of rest between each exercise, then rest for one to two minutes between each round.
Aim for six to eight rounds
Intensity is key. So, don’t hold back.
- Steps lunges
- Set Goals
23. Set Challenging Goals
When you set out to get rid of your belly fat, it’s vital to set goals for yourself.
By setting the right goals, you’ll make the process of reaching your goals much easier and enjoyable both for the short and long term.
Research reported in the Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics suggested that the key to long-term weight loss is setting challenging goals.
The study, led by researchers at Nottingham University, assessed the impact of goal setting in roughly 24,000 overweight participants for a 12-month duration.
In essence, the following:
- Subjects who set no clear goals were the least successful overall
- Those who set relatively modest goals shed 10 percent of their body weight.
- Those who set more challenging goals lost an average of 19 percent of their body in one year–almost twice as much weight as the “realistic group.”
Also, this falls within the expert recommendation for a safe weight loss of one to two pounds per week.
In other words, be realistic short-term—think weeks, but shoot for the stars when it comes to the long run.
In fact, overall, people tend to overestimate what they can do in a month but underestimate what can be accomplished in a year.
To take this one step further, consider making your weight loss goals public. According to a study out of the Journal of Interactive Marketing, sharing your weight loss journey with virtual support communities will make you more likely to get to your destination.
As a rule of thumb, start out by setting short-term fat loss goals.
These shorter, mini, goals are gradual achievements that lead up to your ultimate goals.
A good example would be to lose one pound per week. That might not seem like much, but it adds up.
Keep that weight loss consistent for three months, and you’ll achieve the longer term goal of shedding 10 to 12 pounds.
In other words, and depending on your weight loss goals, aim for 10 to 20 percent of body weight over one year. You should expect slow, gradual weight loss, but not instant results.
And more importantly, set a deadline. Goals with no deadlines lack urgency—and when it comes to success, adding a sense of urgency is of the essence.
Bonus Tip – Consistency is the name of the Game
And that’s no understatement.
I hate to break it to you, but there are no shortcuts.
Weight loss—especially belly fat—is not an overnight process. It’s a long-term commitment.
You cannot starve yourself and run miles after miles this morning and expect results by midday.
Au contraire, my friend. You got to be consistent with your eating and exercise plans.
The key to shedding the pounds and keeping them off is consistently losing a small amount each week, according to research conducted at the Drexel University.
During the experiment, a group of 183 overweight participants went on a weight loss plan for a year.
In the end, subjects who shed a consistent amount of weight over the first two months of the experiment ended up losing more weight than the yo-yo dieters, despite the latter group reporting bigger weight loss results to start.
Further research on achievement and personal success show that the most successful people in the world—those you might consider as lucky—possess a tremendous level of perseverance.
In other words, they’re crazily tenacious—and that’s the type of attitude you need to cultivate not only to lose weight, but to be successful in all aspects of your life.
Once you get on the healthy eating and exercise path, keep it up.
Keep exercising regularly, remove junk foods from your life, do the work and you’ll see improvement, but just not right away.
Results are nothing but the by-product of hard work and consistency. No more.
In short, you simply need to aim for consistent healthy weight loss.
Get this step right, and the fat around your midsection will be no more.
In short, successful weight loss takes a mixed approach nutritious diets that low in junk food and high in fiber, proteins, and fats, along with cardio and weight training.