November 22, 2018 5 min read
By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
Belly fat and belly bloat can mar your overall appearance, but that isn’t the only issue. Did you know that having excess fat in the abdominal area is strongly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease? There are several health problems related to belly fat, which is why you need to get rid of it ASAP.
Belly fat or bloat is estimated by checking the circumference around your waist with a tape measure. If you are a man carrying more than 40 inches or a women measuring more than 35 inches at the waistline, you are considered to have abdominal obesity. Even if you aren’t heavy overall, it is vital to lose the extra fat around your waistline for health reasons.
Following are 8 ways you can start to reduce belly fat and bloat by implementing gradual changes in diet, routine and lifestyle.
Natural sources of sugar such as fruits and vegetables aren’t bad for you, since they also provide nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and protein. But when you consume refined sugar, the body is getting zero nutrition because the process of refining takes away all of its goodness. Refined sugar causes your blood sugar level to rise and insulin to be released, and the excess blood sugar is converted to and stored as fat.
Restrictive diets and carbohydrate depletion are often marketed as quick-fix ways to get skinny. However, these diets fail to take into account any pre-existing hormonal conditions or your body’s response to specific foods and caloric restriction. These extreme measures can place a lot of nutritive stress on your body and — similar to sleep deprivation — result in hormonal imbalances that may have a direct impact on abdominal fat accumulation.
A lot of people opt for crash diets, which mean drastically cutting down on how much you eat. It can help to lose a few pounds in the short-term, but this sort of deprivation is hard to sustain and won’t keep the weight off. It might seem like a quick and easy option, but eating too few calories can actually do more harm than good. If your calorie intake dips too low, your body will go into starvation mode. This will slow down your metabolism, making it harder for you to lose weight. Instead, eat more protein, cut carbs to just 50 grams a day and eat food rich in fiber.
Avoiding refined carbs (sugar, candy, white bread, etc.) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein intake high with eggs, fish, seafood, nuts, meat and dairy products. The best way to get more fiber is to eat more plant foods like vegetables and fruit. Legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like whole oats.
Improving gut health can also help reduce belly fat and bloat. Probiotics can be introduced into your gut through capsules, fermented foods such as miso, kimchi and sauerkraut or through fermented liquids such as kombucha or kefir. By ensuring a healthy microbial environment in the gut, metabolism can be improved and your body will be more effective at digesting food and burning belly fat.
Keeping active is important for a multitude of reasons, but it plays a huge role in reducing belly fat. The most obvious reason is that being active burns calories. When you exercise, particularly by doing anything weight-bearing, you will develop leaner muscles. An increase in lean muscle mass will help to improve your metabolism and burn more calories as a result. Although you can’t exercise to reduce fat in specific areas, working on strengthening your abdominal muscles will improve the tone and appearance of your abdomen.
A lot of people recommend cardio when it comes to shrinking fat mass; however, cardio tends to burn both muscle and fat, so you become skinny sans any strength. Switch to strength training instead to build lean muscle as well as burn fat. Spending even 20 minutes per day performing weight-training exercises will help ensure little increase in abdominal fat.
Indulging in a couple of beers over the weekend might seem like a good way to blow off the tension after a hectic week at work, but the impact soon becomes apparent in your abdominal area. Stay away from alcohol altogether while you are on a mission to lose belly fat, or at least cut down on the intake.
Stress can lead to the production of the steroid hormone cortisol, which in turn causes cravings for sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help cope with immediate danger, but your body will also release this hormone if you feel stressed or anxious. When cortisol levels are high for an extended period, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly.
Aside from feeling tired and groggy the next day, not getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night can impede weight loss. If you don’t get adequate sleep, your hormones are thrown off balance, which will impact your hunger levels the very next day. When you are awake, you will tend to eat more without feeling full. Try going to bed a little earlier than usual to avoid this imbalance and remember to remove any distractions that might prevent you from dozing off.
There are some great apps and wearable tech devices available that make it easier to stick to your plan. They can help you monitor your goals, your food intake and the calories burned during exercise. If these aren’t an option, write down a meal and exercise plan. This will help you stick to your goals and remain focused.
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