If you've had trouble shifting belly fat, you are not alone. It's usually the first type of fat to accumulate and the last to 'burn off'. Luckily, it is an easier type of fat to reduce by improving diet, lifestyle and exercise (unlike hip/bum fat for women-which is a lot tougher to shift due to it being governed by an imbalance in female hormones). There are two types of belly fat: visceral (under the abdominal wall) and subcutaneous (just under the skin).
Loosing both types of fat will decrease your waist circumference, but only subcutaneous fat can be measured by calipers.
Here's my top 10 tips for shifting stubborn belly fat!
1) EAT WHOLE NATURAL NUTRIENT DENSE foods at low quantities 90% of the time. Some fish and meat (but never 'over eat'), lots of vegetables (very hard to 'over eat!), pulses, herbs and spices, nuts, seeds, fruit. Consider avoiding gluten (wheat, oats, and most other grains). It may bloat you. Eat slowly from small plates until satisfied, not full!
2) DON'T HAVE A "CHEAT DAY" BECAUSE WEEKLY CALORIFIC INTAKE IS MORE IMPORTANT TO BE AWARE OF THAN DAILY, AND CONSUMING BAD THINGS ALL AT ONCE WILL LEAD TO IMMEDIATE FAT STORAGE ON THAT DAY! Yes, calories do count (you want to have a 'deficit' at the end of each week to continually loose fat), but they are not the whole story to fat loss- only part of it. 1000 calories of broccoli is not the same as 1000 calories of cake!. They act differently in your body. So 'what' you eat matters as well as 'how much' you eat.
If you are really strict with your self all week, and then have a blow out every Saturday, without really realising it, your weekly calorific intake may not end up putting you at a 'deficit', despite 6 days of that week being at one!. You might feel like you're doing really well, but just not seeing any results. This may be the reason.
Also, having your 'not so healthy' foods/drinks (probably foods with a combination of high sugar and fat) all in one go will lead your body with no choice to 'store' the excess calories, as there will be no where else for them to go!
My advice is to have 3 items per week only that ok 'not so healthy! e.g 3 beers OR 1 cake and 2 glasses of wine etc! And keep on the straight and narrow at all other times.Spread out your 'treats'! This is a good LONG TERM strategy, which is what you should focus on.Short term diets are just that- short term. People usually go back to square one within a couple of months.
Also, having foods with a high fat/sugar combination (e.g. cake, crisps, pizza, milk chocolate) would be better to consume after a hard workout, rather than any other time.
3) KEEP your H.E.C (hunger, energy and cravings) in check. Find a sustainable nutritional rhythm that stops you snacking or eating crap. THIS IS QUITE INDIVIDUAL, AND EVERYONE WILL NEED FIND A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT FORMULA THAT WORKS FOR THEM. Be a nutritional detective. You need to find foods and times to eat them that keep your energy good and your hunger and cravings LOW.
For example, if you always get ravenous at 4pm and tend to eat crap at that time, then either adjust what you are eating for lunch, or put in a healthy snack (e.g. piece of fruit and 5 nuts) at around 2.30pm to 'pre empt' your habit of ravenous 'bad snacking' at 4pm!
Also, throw away the crap in your house- then you can't eat it! If it's there- you'll probably eat/drink it!
4) DRINK only tea, coffee (max 2 per day), water (LOTS) and minimal alcohol (3 drinks per week max), unless there's a special occasion.
I wouldn't recommend commercially produced fruit juice. It will spike your blood sugar, and may make you hungry quickly afterwards. I mean, when would you ever eat 5 oranges? That's essentially what you are doing when you have a large glass of juice (not to mention the fact that all the fibre has been taken away from the fruit, which slows the release of the fruit's sugar). If you are having juice, have only a small glass.
As for home made fruit and vegetable juices, these are obviously a lot better. They can be a good way to get vitamins and minerals into your diet, if you don't consume enough vegetables in your daily diet.They can be great for kids who don't eat much veg too! Just keep quantities small, and be aware that the juicer is essentially doing your stomach's job for it (breaking down the foods), so consuming whole fruits and vegetables will always be a superior option.
5) EXERCISE like this. Current research shows that this is perhaps the best abdominal fat loss protocol.
*3-5x strength sessions a week using 8-15 reps per exercise, performing at least 5 sets at a challenging weight. Go for the most 'bang for your buck' exercises (compound movements that use the whole body). When I say a challenging weight, I really do mean that. It you are doing 10 reps, then I should see you screwing up your face on the 9th and 10th rep!! I see this from the few, not the many! These are the reps that change your body! A bit of muscle is your friend!
* 3-5x hard aerobic or and/or muscular endurance exercise workouts per week based on various intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 20 minutes!
Sprints are a great fat loss tool.If you go all out, for 5-10 efforts (about 10-30 seconds is best) the EPOC effect (basically how many calories your body burns for the next 24 hours, even though it's not doing any exercise) is massive!
Longer duration cadio exercise (over 30 minutes) used to be thought of as the best way to loose fat, but it has pretty conclusively been proven to not work as well as the protocols above. Although that's not to say you shouldn't do it. On the contrary. I LOVE IT - for stress busting and other health and fitness reasons, I think it is fantastic. Also, it can help your over all cardio fitness, helping you deal with shorter intervals much more effectively.
You must give each exercise/interval your absolute best focus and effort...other not much will happen!
Also- its' helpful to do something you enjoy! You will be much more engaged in it if you do!
6) SLEEP at least 7.5 hours a night.
A body without enough sleep doesn't function well! I know this more than ever at the moment!
7) MINIMIZE STRESS and increase your good ENERGY by finding one or two practices that relieve stress symptoms and promote positive energy.
Too much Cortisol, the stress hormone, is bad news for belly fat.
Do what ever works for you. Reading, meditation, walking, longer distance running (my preference), yoga, deep breathing practices...etc. What ever calms you down and makes you feel centred, but positively energised.
Find it, then make time for it. First thing in the morning is best- get up before everyone else- then it might actually happen!
Commit to it- or pay the price (which is not just belly fat by the way, as I'm sure you know!)
8) STAY PATIENT and CONSISTENT.
It takes time to change your body...admittedly, it's quicker for some...but for many it may take months to see a real difference. Consistency is the key. Make everything a routine- something that is done automatically.
9) MEASURE IT.
Do a circumferential, and a caliper test once every 4-6 weeks. How do you really know that you're reducing/gaining belly fat if you don't measure it?
I am happy to do this for you at the gym.
10) CHANGE the story you tell your self and create INTENTION in your mindset every day/week/year.
We all have an 'internal monologue'-The story we tell ourselves of who we are right now, and how we are doing in our life.
To change your body and the way you feel, you need to change your mind first.
Instead of saying
"I feel fat, stressed and not as fit as I used to be"...
change it to
" I'm going to exercise on ............( days/times this week) every week without compromise"
" I'm going to incorporate............(chosen stress reliever/energiser) 3-5 times a week on these days/times........................... without compromise"
"I'm going to start the day as I mean to go on with a healthy breakfast that will keep me going until lunchtime."
"I am on my way towards being fitter and healthier than I've ever been before, as I am taking the above steps"