Oh, belly fat! You saucy little minx, you! We try so hard to slay the belly fat monster, but sometimes it's just so hard. But forge on we must, as carrying extra weight around our mid-section can adversely affect our overall health and well-being. What should you avoid? Glad you asked...
As WebMD notes, "This visceral fat in your middle makes toxins that affect the way your body works, says Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, president of the American Diabetes Association. Among them are chemicals called cytokines that boost your chances of heart disease and make your body less sensitive to insulin, which can bring on diabetes."
The most infuriating part? Sometimes the steps we take to counter belly fat can actually keep us from losing it.
Here are eight fat-burning mistakes to avoid.
1. Drinking fruit juice
Yes, we know it may sound counter-intuitive, but reaching for fruit juice isn't your best bet due to the high sugar content found in most juices. Instead, opt for good old H20. While dieting, try to cut sugar out of your drinks completely. Wean yourself off sugary-coffee beverages and drink it black. Or switch to unsweeted tea for a caffine fix. And be wary of sports beverages as well. While they are marketed toward athletes, many sports drinks have as much sugar as a can of soda. When dieting, try to drink water, and ONLY water.
2. Not eating
You might think in order to lose belly fat that you need to stop eating, but starving ourselves inevitably leads to binging (and potentially to other dangerous behaviors). A better approach? Be mindful of what you eat. Limit your consumption of processed foods and carbs, which are typically filled with stuff that goes straight to our waistlines. Add more fruits and veggies to your diet (focus on green leafy ones rather than starchy ones, like potatoes).
3. Skimping on protein
As Shape magazine reports, "In addition to be satiating, increasing your protein intake may help you lose weight while maintaining fat-burning muscle, according to new research." The key, like anything else, is moderation. And choosing good sources of protein, such as lean meats, seafood, low-fat dairy, and nuts (just to name a few). This translates to things like Greek yogurt, grilled chicken, salmon, walnuts, and so forth.
Why is protein intake so critical to losing weight? Because 25-30% of the calories in each gram of protein are burned in digestion as opposed to only 6-8% of the calories in carbohydrates. So you’ll be saving calories when you substitute 50 grams of protein for the same amount of carbs while you feel fuller and work towards burning off that belly fat.
4. Depriving yourself of sleep
This probably isn't news to you, since the link between sleep deprivation and weight gain has been written about a lot in the last several years (including here, here, and here), but it's worth repeating. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
Yes, this can be challenging. But do you really need to spend an extra hour scrolling through Instagram before you go to sleep? Probably not. The light from screens (laptops, cell phones, etc.) can trick your body into thinking it's daylight. Have you ever watched six episodes on Netflix and thought: Wow, I don't feel tired at all? Reclaim that time before bed by meditating or reading a novel. Your body will thank you.
5. Overdoing your workouts
It's easy to think that if you work out more and work out harder, your belly felt will melt away. But that's an idealistic way of looking at things. Overdoing workouts can often lead to hating workouts altogether. It can lead to injury that will sideline you (and hinder your belly fat-fighting efforts). It can leave you doing incomplete workouts, meaning you might not be achieving the best form in your quest to do more. Instead, work with a personal trainer or find a compelling workout program to follow online. There are several free workout apps you can take with you to the gym to track your progress and stick to your goals.
6. Doing cardio only
Yes, cardio is important, but if turning that belly fat into washboard abs is your goal, you should also add in strength training. As WebMD says, "Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more you have, the more pounds you’ll torch, even when you’re sitting still. Do strength training exercises twice a week. That’s on top of at least half an hour a day for 5 days a week of a moderate activity like walking or biking." Interval training is another smart approach as well.
7. Not having a plan
Like any other issue you tackle in life, it's good to have a solid strategy going in. And the same is true when combating belly fat. Why? Because it involves doing so many things right—eating, exercising, relaxing, sleeping. Reading articles like this is a great first step, but it's also important to have a more formal plan in place, especially for meals and exercise regimens. Working with a professional—or a combination of professionals (e.g. nutritionist and personal trainer) can help ensure you'll reach your goal: a flatter, stronger, healthier midsection.
8. Using too much support
Are you hitting the elliptical or stairs to burn fat with cardio? This is a great way to get your blood flowing. But take it a step further and let go of those handrails! This immediately forces your abdominal muscles to engage so your core can help keep you balanced, resulting in more calories burned. It may sound like an easy tip, but just give it a try and see how fast you feel the difference!
Ready to get started? Blast belly fat with this free workout blueprint.
What are the best exercises to target belly fat?
1. Lunge Twist
A lunge twist is a versatile exercise to target your legs, glutes and engage your core, by adding an abdominal twist you raise the bar to target your abs and belly fat even more!
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, step forward with your right leg into a lunge, making sure not to bring your knee over your foot, and rotate arms and torso to the right, rotate back to center as you step out of the lunge and back to your center position. Alternate sides and continue for 15 reps. A twist abdominal exercise helps prevent building a bulky midsection. Be sure to engage your abs while lunging and rotating to make the most of this exercise.
2. Side Planks
Switch up your routine and say goodbye to your everyday planks. Start by laying on your right side supported by your elbow under your shoulder and your legs stacked. Place your left hand on your hip, engage your core by imagining to pull your belly button to your back (but don’t hold your breath!), and raise your hips so your body forms a diagonal line.
3. BOSU Planks
Who needs cardio when you have the BOSU ball?!
Test out your planking ability without the BOSU initially. Can you hold a solid plank for 15+ seconds? If not, work your way up, by performing elbow or straight-arm planks until you can hit and surpass that :15 threshold.
If you can surpass the threshold, you're ready to get the fat burning! Get down into normal planking position, this time with your dominant hand going onto the BOSU first. Slowly bring your other arm into position, and straighten your legs to get the plank action going! It's more challenging than a normal plank, as the BOSU really tests your overall balance. Your body tries to find control as your balance is challenged — your abs and oblique muscles are activated. Strengthening these core muscles also helps increase your metabolism, ultimately helping you to burn more calories and fat!
4. Ab Walkout
No bending required with this exercises, but you will also work your arms while strengthening your core, and for that, we love this! Begin in a pushup position with your hands extended a few inches wider than shoulder width. Walk your hands out as far as possible in front of you, then walk back to return to the starting position. Repeat 10-12 times, or build up until you can reach that many reps. Be sure to keep your core engaged to get the most benefit from this exercise, instead of pushing your hips up.
5. Squat Jump
One of our favorite exercises can be used as the foundation of your workout, or to supplement in between sets. Burn the belly fat with a squat jump to engage your abs, arms, legs and glutes.
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent with hands by your sides. Squat, making sure your knees do not bend over your toes, then jump up lifting arms overhead and returning to your squat position with arms up, then bringing back to your sides. Continue for 15 reps.
6. Alligator Ab Drag
This exercise is great if you are trying to fit in a workout at home on a busy day, because you will need a good deal of floor space, and you can use some common household items. If you’ll be working on a carpet, grab two paper plates or plastic bags, while a towel will work for a wood or tile floor. Start in a pushup position with your feet on your slides of choice. With your hands, walk forward trying to reach a distance of about 10 yards. Aim to rest for a minute before your alligator walk back to your starting point to complete one rep. Not only will you engage your core, you’ll also burn additional calories from the cardio movement.
You can get started on the path to a brand new you. Get started here or by clicking on the image below.