Whether you’ve over indulged over the Christmas period or your New Year’s resolution is to lose a few pounds around your midriff chances are you’ve come across a range of incredible solutions that are guaranteed to not only work but also work over night. Endless adverts saying that this person has discovered a new solution that 100% works straightaway, you know the sort of adverts that we mean. The trouble with these gimmicks, and let’s be honest they are gimmicks, is that they’re everywhere and make it harder to find the right solution that really does work. This is why we decided to write this helpful and unbiased guide to losing your belly fat and keeping that weight off.
The bad news is that unless you opt for surgery, which we wouldn’t recommend, there is no quick fix that will enable you to lose fat immediately. Any crash diet or fad craze that says you will is either trying to sell you something or doesn’t know how the human body works. The good news though is that it’s actually very simple to really lose the fat. The only two things you need to do to lose that belly fat are exercise and eat healthily. Any exercise is good and will burn fat but what you really want to do is combine that with exercises that concentrate on your midriff. This will help to tone your stomach and turn some of the fat into muscle giving you a fantastic six pack or beach body. Exercises such as crunches and burpees are the number one fat burning exercises and when it comes to diet the most important thing is to cut back on sugars and avoid sugary sweetened drinks.
What are crunches and burpees?
Not all exercises created equal when it comes to losing belly some are better than others and as you’ve probably guessed crunches and burpees are the best but what actually are they and why are they so good?
Crunches is the proper name for sit ups and the reason they’re so good is because they target exactly the areas you’re focusing on – the rectus abdominis (the muscle region that connects the front of the abdomen with the sternum and pubis) and the obliques (the three flat outer muscles of the abdomen). The reason crunches are so good for getting rid of belly fat is because if done correctly you’re using your abdominal muscles to do the lifting. This helps to remove the fat but also to build tone and muscle. Each crunch should be repeated up to 10 times.
There are a number of different crunches but the most common is the abdominal crunch. To do this lie flat with your knees bent and your hands behind your head with your arms open. From there tighten your abs and lift your shoulders and upper back, whilst keeping your hands behind your head and your arms in the same position. Hold this position for a second then lower your back and shoulders and repeat. All other crunches are variations on this but with their own twists.
Twist crunch – Start out the same as you would an abdominal (or normal) crunch but with your legs and knees forming a right angle (with your lower legs being held in the air at 90 degrees to your knees). With your hands behind your head use your abs to bring your right elbow to your left knee. Hold this for around five seconds before returning to the starting position and repeating with your left elbow and right knee.
Bicycle crunch – This is a version of the twist crunch but instead of having your feet on the floor they should be straight out at a 45 degree angle. Then when you twist your elbow bend the opposite knee and bring it towards your elbow.
Ball crunch – Whilst sitting on a Swiss ball place your feet flat on the floor approximately shoulder width apart. Lean back on the ball until your back is parallel with the ground and feels like it’s arched. Next raise your arms upwards and then, tensing your abs, lift your chest up (keeping your head inline with your upper body, being mindful to not strain your neck though) until your middle back is no longer touching the ball. Hold this for up to five seconds then slowly lower yourself until your back is parallel to the floor again.
Russian crunch – You can do this by either lying on the floor with your knees bent and your feet secured so they don’t move or by sitting on a declined bench with your feet secured under the pads. With your hands on your chest use your abdomen to twist to the right, left, right and then left again as quickly as possible.
Incline crunch – This is a regular abdominal crunch but is performed on an inclined bench instead of on the ground.
Hip raise – Start by lying on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat and your arms stretched out on the ground forming a T. Next use your abdominal muscles to lift your hips and lower body off of the ground making sure your arms, shoulders and head stay flat. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds before lowering yourself back.
Leg raise – Again start by lying on the ground but lay your legs flat and place your arms by your side. Whilst keeping your arms and torso on the ground raise your legs to a 45 degree angle. Make sure you keep your legs straight and hold for up to 5 seconds before returning to your starting position.
V crunch – Sometimes called the jackknife crunch you start with your back on the floor and your body starlight, raise your arms upwards then with your abdomen tensed bring your legs straight up to meet your arms. Your knees should be straight and your toes and fingers almost touching. Hold this for a few seconds then slowly lower your legs back to the ground.
Wiper/half wiper crunch – Start with your back on the ground, your arms out to the side and your legs straight up at as close to 90 degrees as you can. Next rotate your legs from your hips to the right (forming a 45 degree angle) then back to the centre before rotating to the left and then back to the centre again. If this is too difficult then you can do a ‘half wipe’, this is where your knees are bent and your upper legs are at a 45 degree angle and parallel to the ground.
Reverse crunch – As you would expect this is the opposite of the abdominal crunch. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your arms either flat by your side or behind your head. Then instead of lifting you upper body towards your knees you use your abdominal muscles to lift your body from your hips. Bring your knees up to your chest while keeping your legs at the same angle, the idea is to ‘curl’ your hips up until your lower legs are vertical.
Despite being a full body exercise burpees, which are sometimes called squat thrusts, as extremely good for losing belly fat because not only do they make very good use of your abdominal core they’re designed to get your heart rate up which will increase the calories you burn which in turn will help to shed your belly fat. There are a variety of different burpee that can be performed which we covered in our article here.
What’s the best diet to lose the fat?
When it comes to diet there are a number of really good ones out there, such as intermittent fasting or carb cycling, but what’s more important is eating the right foods. Some foods, while being good for you, won’t help you to lose those pounds whereas others will. We’ve listed some of the best foods that will help you.
Berries – These will indirectly help you to shed the fat because they’re full of antioxidants which help improve your blood flow. This means your muscles have more oxygen and therefore cardio workouts are easier. Berries also contain less sugars than most other fruits.
Bananas – By now you will have realised what a wonder food bananas are and how they can help in so many ways. Being high in fibre and low in calories they will aid your digestion without putting the weight on. The greener the banana is the better it is too, reason being is that green (or unripe) bananas are high in resistant starch which is known to increase fat burning.
Avocados – Another superfood, avocados contain a great deal of healthy fats which prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking, it’s these spikes that tell your body to store belly fat. A 2013 study also showed that people who eat avocado regularly had a lower BMI and less belly fat than those that didn’t.
Green Tea/Matcha – Green tea or matcha (which is fine green tea powder) is known to boost your metabolism. On top of that although it does contain caffeine, unlike the acidic caffeine found in coffee, it has no effect on your adrenaline. This means you can drink as much as you like without any effect.
Whole grains – grains such as oatmeal and brown rice not only help you to feel fuller for longer they also help to keep your insulin levels low which research has shown can shrink fat cells. Yes they do contain a lot of carbs but these are pure (or raw) carbs rather than the refined (or processed) carbs found in things like white rice and bread.
Greek yogurt – Like whole grains, Greek yogurt will help to keep your insulin levels in check and help to stop your body storing fat. Greek yogurt also helps the good bacteria in your gut to get rid of anything that can cause bloating such as bugs and bad bacteria.
Fish – Especially oily fish such as tuna and sardines. They’re a rich source of omega-3 and lean proteins which will no only help to fill you up but will keep you feeling like that for a lot longer.
Nuts – If you really have to snack then you can’t go far wrong by snacking on nuts such as almonds, peanuts and pistachios. They’re full of healthy monounsaturated fats too.
Beans (including lentils) – Studies have shown that they help your nervous and muscular systems which will help you to reduce your belly fat and build lean muscle mass.
Can I lose the belly fat without exercising?
Diet and exercise combined are the best and quickest way to lose that belly fat but you certainly can lose some of the fat without exercising, especially if you’re feeling bloated a lot. Exercising helps to burn the calories (and thus the fat) and tone the muscle but you can lose some belly fat without exercise.
Drink plenty of water – Keeping yourself hydrated with plenty of water is not only good for your general well being it can also help to shift some of the pounds, especially from around your midriff.
Eat healthy – This might sound like the most obvious thing but it’s often overlooked. You need to reduce the amount of processed food you consume while at the same time making sure you include high fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables. Also slow your eating down, ideally chewing each mouthful around 15 times before swallowing.
Don’t chew gun too often – Chewing gum will make you feel hungry sooner but will also result in you inadvertently ‘swallowing’ air which will make you feel bloated. Chewing can be good to help relieve stress but will in the long run have a negative effect on your waist line.
Don’t stress – This is far easier said than done but if you’re stressed your body will increase your cortisol levels, this in turn results in a fatty layer around your waistline, it’s your bodies way of protecting your vital organs. It thinks that something is wrong so goes into a kind of survival mode. Not getting enough sleep can have the same effect too.
Consume more protein – Whether it be via food or supplements having enough good quality protein will help your metabolism and help you feel fully for longer.
What is a Swiss ball
Developed in the 1960’s by Aquilino Cosani, an Italian plastics manufacturer, who had mastered the process of moulding puncture-resistant plastic balls. Originally known as Pezzi balls they were used by British physiotherapist Mary Quinton while she worked in Switzerland. Later they were used by Dr Susanne Klein-Vogelbach, director of the Physical Therapy School in Basel, Switzerland. She used them as physical therapy for neuro-development treatment of people with orthopaedic and medical conditions. The name Swiss ball came from the American’s who, after observing Dr Klein-Vogelbach and her techniques, began using those same techniques themselves and named the ball after the country they first saw it in use. Since then the Swiss ball has now become a popular training aid for many athletes and is even used in exercise programmes such as yoga and pilates.
The size of ball you should go for solely determined by your height:
Small (18 inches or 45cm) – Your height should be up to 4’10” or 145cm
Medium (22 inches or 55cm) – Between 4’8” and 5’5” or 140cm to 165cm
Large (26 inches or 65cm) – Ranging from 5’6” to 6’ or 165cm to 185cm
Extra large (30 inches or 75cm) – For people between 6’ and 6’5” or 185cm to 195cm
Extra, extra large (33 inches or 85cm) – Anybody over 6’5” or 195cm
If you’re after a Swiss ball then Amazon have a wide selection.
So there we have it, losing you belly doesn’t have to be hard work at all. Quite the opposite with regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet you’ll lose it in no time at all. Once you’ve lost the initial fat you’ll find keeping it off easy too.