A muffin top and large belly don't just affect your wardrobe choices. This fat is dangerous to your health as well as deleterious to your appearance. All the situps in the world won't reduce your waist circumference or rid you of a muffin top. Only a comprehensive exercise plan and a sensible, low-calorie diet can help you slim this area. These strategies take time but make it more likely you'll get lasting results. Know that shrinking your belly's overall girth may prove easier than trimming the last bit of pinchable fat on your tummy.
My friends and family have watched my weekly progress and can't believe the changes. In fact, my father returned from 7 weeks of vacation and saw me for the first time since I started losing the weight. His comment? "I want to do what YOU'RE doing!" He's now using the Battle Ready Body program and has lost 12 pounds in 5 weeks...and he's 68 years old!
To figure out how many calories you burn a day, calculate your resting metabolic rate—the number of calories you burn daily doing routine activities, not including formal exercise—using this formula: RMR = bodyweight (in lbs) x 13. Next, determine how many calories you burn through exercise—a half-hour of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise burns around 350 calories in the average man, and a half-hour of lifting burns around 200. Add your RMR to the calories you burn in the gym, and keep your daily calorie consumption below that total.
Since muscle mass actually increases your metabolic rate, building muscle through weight training increases your caloric burn, says Alberty Matheny, C.S.C.S., R.D., and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab. To increase your muscle mass, he suggests doing three to four sets of exercises like bicep curls, triceps pull downs, squats, lunges, bench presses, and upright rows. Perform eight to 12 reps per set, taking a 45 to 90 second breaks between sets. Tackle this sequence three times per week and increase the weight and sets to keep making progress as you get stronger, he says.
Luckily, that doesn’t mean you need to dedicate even more time exercising. In fact, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can slash the time commitment while boosting results. HIIT workouts last about 20 minutes and combine bursts of super-intense exercise with slower recovery phases. This type of workout has been found to help people lose more fat once the workout is over, even though they burn less calories during the workout (since workouts are shorter) and also build muscle, rather than break it down the way conventional cardio does. (3)
"I've worked out regularly for over three years now and for the first two and a half years, my weight didn't move," says Tara Bird, 38. "It wasn't until I consistently started tracking everything that I ate that I saw the scale start to go down. I figured out what my maintenance calories were and created a deficit of 300 to 400 calories. Progress has been slow, but I've lost 23 pounds in the last year. Ideally, I would like to lose another 15 pounds, but I'm happy with my progress. Slow and steady!"
Water isn’t just a calorie-free beverage, it’s also essential to the process of metabolizing fat, known as hydrolysis, says Pence. So it’s important to drink enough fluids every day—and you’ll need even more if you’re overweight. A good rule of thumb is to drink a milliliter of water for every calorie you consume. Not into the metric system? If you’re following a 2000-calorie diet, that comes to 67 ounces or just over a half gallon of water.
We’re continuing to learn that shortchanging our sleep — even for just one night — can lead to less healthy food choices the next day. The latest study took a look at subjects’ MRI scans after a night of sound sleep and again after a night of sleep deprivation. The MRI scans showed that sleep deprivation activates an area of the brain that makes you view food as more desirable. In other words, it prompts cravings. This adds to other evidence showing that insufficient sleep increases hunger while also making us less likely to stay active. Taken all together, it means that a healthier sleep situation can encourage a healthier weight.
In a nutshell: the plan uses 6 days of ketosis – when your body burns fats for energy – followed by 1 day of carbohydrate loading along with constant toxin binding supplements to help your body get rid of the released toxins. This protocol isn’t low-calorie, and you don’t run the same risk of causing metabolic problems that you do when you follow a low-calorie diet.
Non-food related factors could be why you can’t lose weight. One common and underappreciated factor in is sleep deprivation, according to Malkani. Studies show that poor sleep may lead to an increase in body fat and is a risk factor for obesity. “This is potentially because sleep deprivation affects the production of hormones that regulate hunger and satiety,” Malkani, creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle, says. Stress or emotional eating has a similarly negative impact on weight. Studies show that extreme dieting increases cortisol, the stress hormone, which is known for causing weight gain. Malkani adds that adopting healthy alternatives to mood-triggered eating—like taking a walk, meditating, or taking with a friend—are healthy tools for dealing with stress rather than distracting yourself with food.
It turns out the easiest trick to lose belly fat can be done in seconds. The expert advice? Stand up straight and adjust your posture. This simple trick to lose belly fat works because the abdominal muscles use energy to keep us upright. When you slouch, you put these muscles to sleep, meaning they can't burn belly fat. "Correcting poor posture can make you look 5 pounds slimmer instantly," strength and conditioning specialist Deborah L. Mullen told Prevention.
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Use an adult energy needs calculator to estimate your calorie intake needs; then subtract the 500 to 1,000 calories for weight loss. For example, a 28-year-old woman who is 5 foot, 9-inches tall weighs 175 pounds and is lightly active -- less than an hour a day -- burns about 2,400 calories daily. She'll burn about 2 pounds of fat in a week if she eats 1,400 calories daily, or 1 pound a week if she eats 1,900 calories a day.
When fat loss is the goal, planning a good mix of workouts is key. Gary suggests incorporating a combination of strength training, high- and moderate-intensity cardio and something to help relax the muscles. “I’ll train my clients hard on the strength training and high-intensity cardio side of things, then suggest they get to a good yoga or pilates class and fit in a run or sign up for a spin class,” he says.
Unfortunately for beer lovers, a six-pack of cold ones and six-pack abs are mutually exclusive. “My clients repeatedly hear my reminders that I can’t help them out-train their poor nutritional and lifestyle choices, and this includes drinking alcohol,” says Horton. When you down a drink, be it beer, wine or liquor, your body has to break down the alcohol before it can process all the other food in your system. This slows down the metabolic process, and can make it difficult to strip away the layer of fat that’s covering your abs. What’s more, research suggests that consuming just half a drink (a 6-ounce beer, a 2.5-ounce glass of wine or half a shot of liquor) can significantly increase appetite and the number of calories you subsequently consume—even if you still feel stone-cold sober. The bottom line: Ditch the booze if you really want to see your abs shine through.
Picking healthy foods is not as simple as finding a “healthy” brand and sticking to it. Every restaurant and every brand has some dishes and products that are healthier than others. It’s key to look beyond advertised health claims on the front of the box. In fact, research from Washington State University shows that reading food labels can improve weight loss.
In addition to helping maintain heart health and keep inflammation levels under control, monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, may stop belly fat before it starts. Research in the journal Diabetes Care found that people who got roughly 25 percent of their total daily calories from MUFAs gained no visceral fat over the course of the study, while those who ate less MUFAs and more carbs added fat to their midsections. My favorite MUFA-rich food is olive oil because you can use it in so many meals (check out the belly-blasting breakfast I recommend), but avocados and nuts are other excellent sources. Pine nuts are particularly great because they also contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These acids increase levels of two hormones that signal your brain when you’re full. Try snacking on one ounce of pine nuts (about the amount you can fit in a shot glass) 20 minutes before mealtime to avoid overeating.
The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and the Flexitarian Diet, Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.
Rounding out the top three for best weight loss programs on the U.S. News and World Report 2016 rankings, the Biggest Loser meal plan uses a pyramid system with fruits and veggies setting the foundation. Simple tenets back the plan: for example, being mindful of portion control, keeping a food diary, and exercising regularly. So, yes, work will be involved, but the plan is sustainable in the long-term and a likely way to shed pounds.
If you're mostly sedentary (and let's face it—with 9-to-5 desk jobs being the norm, it's hard to avoid), you'll start to see noticeable results with just a slight increase in your activity level. Break up the hours in front of the computer by using your lunch break to move around. "I started walking for 45 minutes during my lunch break," says Melissa Leon, who ultimately dropped 53 pounds. "The area was super hilly, but feeling the burn in my butt and quads as I powered up those hills let me know I was making progress."