Belly fat may be tougher to lose than fat in other areas of your body. But there is a reason why you must work harder to get rid of it: associated with it are a host of illnesses, be it cancer, lung disease, and heart disease.
Luke Coutinho, holistic nutritionist and founder, Purenutrition.me, says that even working out religiously at the gym may not be enough to lose pesky belly fat. “We often find it difficult to reduce belly fat because it is not just about quantity and choice of exercise, but also about nutrition, stress, sleep and overall lifestyle. It can be caused by calorific intake, a sedentary lifestyle, stress or hereditary factors.”
He explains that most of the fat loss takes place when we sleep and not during the actual workout. “When we sleep, hormonal balance is achieved in the body that helps improve fat metabolism,” he says.
To get rid of belly fat, Coutinho advises that people avoid high-calorie foods and transfats as these lead to redistribution of fats in the abdominal area. “Instead, high protein/whey protein foods are recommended as these help burn fat through a thermic effect, as the body spends energy to digest them. Also, Apple cider vinegar is an excellent superfood that can increase metabolism and speed up belly fat reduction,” says Coutinho.
Sugar is also linked to abdominal fat. In a study conducted in 2009, a group of researchers observed a group who drank sugar-sweetened drinks with their meals over an eight-week period. Their diets didn’t otherwise change, but they put on an average of three pounds. However, this wasn’t all, as participants were found to have significantly increased abdominal fat too.
“Sugar has no nutritive value and only adds to health problems. Excess sugar in blood causes insulin resistance which increases insulin levels in body. This causes the fat cells to prevent burning of fat and store more fats in the cells. This can increase belly fat,” explains Coutinho.
Dr Nilesh Makwana, director and consulting physiotherapist, Muscle N Mind Physiotherapy Centre, advises a 40:30 ratio of carbohydrates and proteins be followed for effective belly fat loss. In terms of exercise, he suggests strength training is a good way to reduce belly fat. “Fat burning depends on the surface area principle: the more the size of the muscle, the greater is the chance of fat burning. For example, legs are supposed to have a large surface area, so if you do squats, lunges and other high intensity workouts, you burn more fat. And once you do those exercises, the fat burning continues for the next 48 to 72 hours into recovery,” he says.
Walking or running can also reduce belly fat, but over a period of time. “As you run, the blood circulation improves, metabolism increases, and fat burning is initiated,” says Coutinho.
And lastly, Dr Makwana cautions against going falling for marketing gimmicks that promise to reduce belly fat in just 1-2 months. “They may work but the chances of getting that fat again are even higher,” he says.