Belly fat is beyond frustrating. Most often this frustration is directed at that darned muffin top that prevents us from feeling and looking our best in our favourite skinny jeans. But, in actuality, the consequences of belly fat run much deeper than the way our clothing fits.
When the white fat in your stomach expands and grows around the organs, your health could be at risk. This visceral fat increases your production of the stress hormone cortisol and inflammatory substances known as cytokines that impact your body's production of insulin. Carrying extra fat in your belly could increase your risk of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease!
It is time to improve your health (and the fit of your jeans) by banishing belly fat once and for all! Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Never stop moving
The only really good thing about visceral fat is that it responds well to aerobic exercise. Doing activities that elevate your heart rate, like running, cycling or swimming are most effective. A study out of Duke University found that running the equivalent of 12 miles per week should do the trick. For over 100 hours of on demand workouts that will elevate your heart rate AND keep you motivated, check out SweatFlix℠!
2. Eat protein like a boss
Protein may be the key to a slimmer you. Here's why: "Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren't responding to it properly," explains Louis Aronne, MD, Director of the Obesity Clinic at Cornell. Insulin promotes fat storage -- especially around the middle. A high protein diet may help protect you against insulin resistance. One study has shown that obese women who followed a diet for 8 weeks that consisted of roughly 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat lost more fat -- including visceral fat, than women who ate a diet that was 16% protein, 55% carbs, and 26% fat. For some help balancing your diet, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan!
3. Pound the polyunsaturates
A Swedish study published in 2014 discovered that saturated fat packs on more visceral fat than polyunsaturated fat. The study subjects ate 750 more calories daily for seven weeks. These calories were either in the form of palm oil (saturated) or sunflower oil (polyunsaturated). Those who consumed the palm oil gained more visceral fat while those who consumed the sunflower oil gained more muscle and less fat. You can find polyunsaturated fats in nuts, seeds and fish.
4. Pucker up
A 2009 Japanese study found that obese women who consumed a tablespoon or two of vinegar everyday for 8 weeks showed significant decreases in body fat -- visceral fat in particular. "One theory is that the acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that burn up fat," explains Pamela Peeke, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fight Fat After 40.
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5. Chill out
Postmenopausal women who gave yoga a try over a 16 week period reported reductions in visceral fat, according to a 2012 study. If you aren't that into the idea of yoga, any sort of relaxation exercise will do the trick. The aim of these practices is to reduce the production of cortisol. When you are stressed, your cortisol levels are elevated which can lead to the storage of belly fat.
6. Get to bed!
A study from Wake Forest University in 2010 found that sleeping 5 hours or less a night can lead to an increase in visceral fat. Not getting enough sleep at night throws your metabolism and hormones completely off balance. Aim for 7-10 hours a night.
7. Don't sleep in on weekends
Women who wake up and go to bed at the same time each day have lower levels of body fat. As mentioned above, chaotic sleep patterns do a number on your system and increase the production of fat-storing hormones like cortisol. Get your body into a rhythm and keep it there.
8. Sip green tea
Moderate exercisers who drank green tea were more likely to lose abdominal fat than those who didn't. This is because of the antioxidants found in the tea known as catechins. One study has suggested you should get about 625 mg a day which is roughly equivalent to 2 or 3, 8 ounce glasses of green tea a day.
9. Make friends with fiber
This means eating a lot of it! A trial, conducted in 2011, found that subjects who increased their soluble fiber intake by 10 grams a day, reduced visceral fat by 3.7% over 5 years. 10 grams works out to be the equivalent of two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half cup of pinto beans.
Have you reduced your visceral fat? Share your tips with us!