Throw intense, high-speed intervals into your usual cardio workout, and you’ll burn the same or more total calories in a shorter amount of time—and the harder you push it, the more calories you burn after your workout, Holland says, meaning the fat will melt off to reveal your abs. Peterson recommends adding sprints of 10, 20, and 30 seconds and recovering for two to three times that long. Bonus: You can “sprint” on anything: treadmill, bike, rower, swimming, elliptical—you name it.
Nonstarchy vegetables: Because vegetables fill you up without filling you out, they’re really the backbone to any healthy eating plan. They’re also loaded with anti-inflammatory properties to continue to banish belly fat for life. Even when you reach your goal weight, aim to have a minimum of four servings of nonstarchy vegetables every single day.
Not only will the protein in cheese keep you full so you’re not tempted to snack more later, but it can also help you avoid bloating and gas. Pairing it with an apple gives you an extra kick of nutrients. “Protein helps the flow of digestion, and produce gives you the nutrients your body needs, along with fiber,” says Crandall. A banana with nut butter, or carrot sticks with hummus make other good combos of protein and produce. Try to eat this food every day to beat belly bloat.
Your breakfast toast won’t miss these sugar-laden spreads when you start to shed pounds and notice a flatter belly. One tablespoon of jam easily carries just under 10 grams of sugar. And let’s be honest, who just has one? Top peanut butter sandwiches with fresh pieces of fruit, like banana and strawberry slices to infuse it with some natural sweetness. This tactic will help ward off blood-sugar fluctuations that can cause insulin spikes and put hunger into overdrive.
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means the more you have, the faster your metabolism is and the more calories you burn all day long—all key for a whittled middle. Resistance training builds this quality lean muscle, so do two to three total-body strength sessions a week, says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym: Personal Trainer Secrets Without the Personal Trainer Price Tag. For fat-melting cardio, all you need to do is your weight, he adds: If you’re 145 pounds, do 145 minutes a week, broken up however fits into your schedule—say, 60 minutes Saturday, 45 Tuesday, and 40 Thursday.
Do aerobic exercises daily. Sure, you can do 100 crunches a day, but if you've got a layer of belly fat covering up your ab work then what's the point? You need to burn the top layer of stomach fat to see the changes. Cardio exercises will heat up your core temperature and improve circulation, both of which will aid in acquiring a flat stomach. Strive for at least 30 minutes a day minimum, but include 1-2 days of rest each week.
"Eating portion-controlled meals that include whole-grain foods and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) throughout the day is the best way to eat for a flat belly: People who eat whole grains lose more abdominal fat. And making most of the fats you eat MUFAs reduces ab flab, research says." —Keri Glassman, RD, author of The O2 Diet and The Snack Factor Diet
Eating every three or four hours will prevent you from getting too ravenous. Curb your hunger with a midafternoon snack so you aren’t starving by dinnertime. “If you wait too long or build up this intense hunger, you’re more likely to choose those convenience foods and more likely to overeat at that next meal,” says Armul. “You want generally smaller to moderate portion sizes because they’re an easier load for your body.”
Peterson is a fan of Chaturanga Dandasana—a.k.a. yoga pushup—for the extension and isometric contraction it provides: From plank, bend your elbows and begin lowering toward the floor, with every part of your body an equal distance from the floor. Keep your elbows close to your body, abs engaged (not clenched), back straight, thigh muscles active, and glutes soft. Start by holding the pose above the floor for 5 full, complete breaths, and work up to 10. Push back up to plank in 4 counts. Do 4 reps every other day.
Cruciferous veggies are one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, but unfortunately they're also the ones most likely to cause your tummy to inflate. Thanks to raffinose, a compound that produces extra gas as it breaks down, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and the like can seriously increase your waistline. But don't ditch them forever. Just save them for meals where you can wear loose pants. Here are other surprising foods that cause gas.
Sodium is a big culprit of bloat by causing your body to retain water, but potassium helps counterbalance that salt—here are some other causes of bloating to know about. “By eating more potassium, you can help reduce bloating,” says Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. Slice banana into your yogurt, or scramble up eggs with tomato and spinach, which are other good sources of potassium.
A note on low carb diets: With low carb diets (I see you Paleo), a lot of junk carbs (sweets, breads, alcohol) are also restricted in the process. This is good, and often leads to weight loss. Carbohydrates also hold water in the body, so we’ll also see water loss (and subsequent weight loss). All of this is exciting and people think “I’m never touching a carb again!”
That depends. It doesn’t matter how hard you train your abs if you have fat lying on top. Cardio gets rid of that fat, but if you’re already thin with a low body fat percentage and/or have a fast metabolism it’s unlikely that you will need it. If you do have fat and want to do cardio, first decide what kind of cardio you’d like to do (steady state vs. HIIT). For steady state I’d recommend something like 5 times a week, but for HIIT I’d recommend no more than 4 times a week (every other day). If your HIIT workouts are under 12 minutes then feel free to do them more times a week.
Make dessert an occasional treat rather than an everyday event so it doesn’t become a habit, says Rumsey. If you’re already feeling bloated, eating sweets full of simple carbs could just make it worse, says Armul. “But if it’s been a healthy day and you’ve stayed active, a small portion of dessert should be fine and won’t cause major bloating,” she says. The key to making it fit into your flat-belly day is sticking with one small portion—a serving of ice cream is probably smaller than your usual scoop (or two)—or picking a healthier choice, like frozen fruit, to satisfy your sweet tooth.
If you can do more than five reps of an exercise, pick up a heavier weight. As you build muscles and your body gets stronger, you can increase your load to challenge your body. It’s particularly important to work larger muscle groups, like your glutes, with a heavier weight. “This will burn fat, in the belly and other areas, quicker than any ab exercise.”
When I sit in my chair with the electrodes in place, nothing happens. So I switch over to sit on a pumped-up stability ball, like the kind every office health nut uses. No whoosh. But then I lean slightly backward and all of sudden — whoosh — my rectus abdominis activates to support my spine because there is no backrest to do the job. "The stability ball requires your torso to balance on an unsteady surface. It forces your abs to fire," Dr. Herrera says. I find I can also activate the rectus abdominis, not to mention my heretofore-napping obliques, by pulling in my belly button. I feel like a living Wii game avatar as I subsequently walk around Dr. Herrera's office trying to get a reaction from the EMG. Walking itself produces only a weak whoosh, but by carrying a bag of groceries in front of me, slinging my purse over one shoulder, or climbing stairs, I get the electrical activity on the EMG monitor to increase.
Even calorie-free sodas can make your belly bigger because the carbonation will bloat you up. “With carbonated beverages, there’s nowhere else for gas to go but out, so either belch or gas,” says Crandall. Plus, the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks can cause bloating and gas in some people, says Armul. Try water infused with lemon or cucumbers instead for a flavorful, refreshing drink. Here’s how stomach doctors deal with belly bloat.
Boxing also gives you a cardio workout that burns extra calories. Add 16 minutes of boxing three times a week to your regular cardio routine (30 minutes at high intensity four to five times a week), and you can lose up to 2 inches from your waist in four weeks. Simply throw punches while holding 1- or 2-pound weights for 8 minutes, alternating arms, then repeat without weights at a faster pace for 8 more minutes."
Yup, this means all the “secret ab routines” you see about targeting certain abs (Upper abs! Lower abs! Obliques!) mean diddly-squat about getting rid of the fat on top of those muscles – those are only necessary when you are at a low bodyfat percentage. Which means you can stop doing 10 different ab exercises to hit the different muscles in your stomach. It’s not a good use of your time!
Bring your hands into prayer pose. Lunge forward with your left leg and bend your knee about 90 degrees, keeping your back leg straight. Brace your abs in tight to your spine and rotate your upper body to the left. Keep your spine long as you lean over your left leg and press your right elbow into the outside of your left leg. Turn your head to look up toward the ceiling over your left shoulder. Hold for 10 long, deep breaths and then untwist and return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Another imbalance that plagues the abs is between the obliques, the muscles that cinch your sides. You have two sets on both your right and left, and if you show them love, they'll give you a nice hourglass shape. Sadly, your left obliques start out at a disadvantage, says Hahn. Blame your heart, which takes up extra space and makes the obliques difficult to tone—an issue that's compounded if you're right-handed. "Think about where your mouse pad is," says Hahn. "Then you shake hands, change the radio station in the car—you do so much with your right side, making it stronger."
Fennel, peppermint, and ginger have all been shown in research studies to have calming effects on the belly. They work by enhancing digestive enzymes so your food gets moved through your system faster. And faster-moving food means a flatter tummy. In addition, peppermint reduces cramping and gas, ginger helps with nausea and inflammation, and fennel is a diuretic to help you stop retaining water. Here are other home remedies to help an upset stomach.
Choose whole fruits over juices, fresh over canned, water over soft drinks. Avoid bakery staples like cakes and cookies. Canned and packaged foods contain a lot of sodium and very less fiber and nutrients. Excess sodium retains more water, puffing up your belly. Stay away from sugar substitutes as well; they are only partially digested by your body.
Researchers say it has to do with the flavonoids, the heart-healthy compounds in chocolate, that have important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Just be sure you’re reaching for a bar with at least 70 percent cacao, and stay away from the “alkalized” stuff, which has a significantly reduced flavonoid content. We like Nibmor Extreme Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs.
Research shows the average American eats about 20 teaspoons of sugar daily, often hidden in processed foods, including “healthy” ones such as yogurt, frozen dinners, sauces, and salad dressings. Twenty teaspoons adds up to 325 empty calories a day, and insulin production increases with sugar intake, which can slow your metabolism, making it harder to burn those empty calories. Read labels and try to reduce your intake as much as possible.
You'll find lean, satiating protein in every single bite you take on Zero Belly Diet. The muscle-building macronutrient is fundamental to the plan, and eggs happen to be one of the easiest and most versatile delivery systems in the universe. Not only that, they're also the number-one dietary source of a nutrient called choline. Choline, which is found also in lean meats, seafood, and collard greens, attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. (That's why eggs are one of the best foods for weight loss.) One Zero Belly Diet recipe—a breakfast hash with sweet potatoes and fresh farm eggs—became test panelist Morgan Minor's go-to breakfast, and after just three weeks on the program, the female firefighter lost 11 pounds and 4 inches from her waist! The more eggs you eat, the less egg-shaped you get.
Beans can help boost feelings of fullness and manage blood sugar levels, making them an excellent ally in your weight loss battle. In fact, a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils could contribute to modest weight loss. And if you need another reason to bulk up on beans, remember that the fiber and protein-rich legumes are an excellent source of genistein—the same compound found in peanuts and lentils that aids weight loss. To up your bean intake, toss some of ’em in a soup or salad and eat up!
Shrinking your belly isn’t just about what you put in your body, it’s about what’s going on in your brain, too. In a 2015 study, Brown University researchers asked nearly 400 people to complete a mindfulness awareness survey, which asked whether subjects agreed with such questions as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.” Then, they X-rayed the subjects’ bellies to determine their degree of belly fat. The results showed that the higher people scored on the mindfulness survey, the less visceral fat they were likely to have. People who are less mindful have, on average, an extra pound of fat inside their bellies than those who are more in tune with their everyday lives and the world around them.
Think of it this way — if you were wearing a light jacket, would the type of exercise you are doing make you want to take it off? You want to choose aerobic exercises that warm your body enough that you’d want to shed a real jacket — brisk walking, cycling, dancing, swimming, and so on. Cardiovascular exercises of this sort can burn enough calories to require your body to draw energy from (and thus “shed”) your “fat jacket.”
Cruciferous veggies are one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, but unfortunately they’re also the ones most likely to cause your tummy to inflate. Thanks to raffinose, a compound that produces extra gas as it breaks down, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and the like can seriously increase your waistline. But don’t ditch them forever. Just save them for meals where you can wear loose pants. Here are other surprising foods that cause gas.
Drink water. Stay hydrated to stay energized and active. You’ll also reduce belly bloat from water retention if you maintain a well-hydrated body. Skip the high-calorie sports drinks and sweetened drinks. Stick to homemade flavored water to keep your hydration habit cheap and healthy. If you feel like your belly weight is due to water retention, there are safe ways to lose water weight quickly so that your tummy gets flatter in a few days (or even a few hours).
Dr. Travis Stork is an Emmy(R)-nominated co-host of the award-winning talk show "The Doctors" and a practicing board-certified emergency medicine physician. He graduated magna cum laude from Duke University and earned his M.D. with honors from the University of Virginia, where he was elected into the prestigious honor society of Alpha Omega Alpha for outstanding academic achievement. Born and rais ...more