Shifting belly fat can be one of trickiest items to tackle on our journey to a healthier bod; especially as we face the dreaded middle-aged spread.
But with one study revealing that each 10 cm (3.94 inch) increase in waist circumference was associated with an 11% higher risk of all mortality, there's never been a better incentive to nix those niggling extra pounds from our tummy area.
As an added bonus we'll be able to ditch those control pants and slip seamlessly into anything from our favourite LBD to the skinny jeans that haven't had an outing since last season.
With the help of experts and a dash of science, we've put together some easy-to- implement tips and pointers that will take you from excess flab to oh-so-fab in no time at all.
Kick-start your metabolism with red bush tea
Who doesn't love a good old fashioned cuppa? And swapping out your usual cup of English Breakfast in favour of naturally caffeine-free Red Bush could do wonders for your waistline, as well as your overall health.
"A recent research review by Dr Tim Bond and myself found that Red bush contains a compound called aspalathin which in laboratory studies, has been shown to reduce fat, increase fat metabolism and block fat cell formation," explains Dr Emma Derbyshire, nutritionist from the Tea Advisory Panel. "The same new research also found antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits from drinking red bush tea as well as immune function and blood glucose benefits. As a result, Red Bush tea is not only good for weight loss needs but our general health and wellness."
Boost fat burning with CurraNZ
Another day, another exciting superfood supplement to add to your repertoire. "Research has found that the New Zealand blackcurrant supplement, CurraNZ® can boost fat burning up to 27% during exercise, with some data suggesting it can increase the base rate of fat burning at rest, too," explains sports nutritionist Kate Shilland. Try CurraNZ New Zealand Blackcurrant extract, £21.75 for 30 capsules, elivar.com.
Include targeted exercises
Sometimes there's just no substitute for getting moving. Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist & E-RYT Yoga/Barre Instructor Kristina Carman suggests the following at-home exercise to help trim your tum.
Leg raises: Lay on your back with your palms placed below your hips. Raise legs to 90°. Slowly lower legs towards the floor (try not to drop them down aiming for about 45°) then pull back up to centre. Repeat 10-15 times for 3 rounds.
Maximuscle ambassador and personal trainer, Dan Lambert, suggests embracing exercise acronyms to win your battle with belly fat.
"EMOM stands for ‘every minute on the minute’ and is a brilliant tool for installing accountability into your home workouts," he explains.
"Perform a set of reps of an exercise as fast as you can, every minute, on the minute (some people choose larger sets or multiple exercises and go every 2-3 minutes). Your rest is the remaining time before the next beep, so it pays to work quickly!"
Here’s an example;
On a 20 minute running clock complete the following on the minute every minute;
- 5 x push ups
- 5 x mountain climbers (on each side)
- 5 x burpees
- 5 x reverse lunges (each leg)
Cut down on starchy carbs
It's the last thing you'll want to hear, but eating too many of the wrong kind of carbs and curves in all the wrong places are likely to go hand in hand. But the good news is you can still treat yourself to the occasional bowl of carbonara, providing you embrace the mantra 'moderation, moderation, moderation'.
"Belly fat is the most stubborn of areas, hormones play a part but so does your intake of starchy carbohydrates like, bread, rice, pasta and potatoes, or starchy foods like pizza," says Kay Illingworth, creator of The Diet Plate (the very first portion control plate). "To lose belly fat, starchy carbohydrates need to be limited to a small portion around 90 - 125 grams a day as shown on the Diet Plate section."
Get your cortisol under control
"If we are talking about losing belly fat, then we need to talk about cortisol, as it is one of the most mismanaged aspects of our body through modern diets and lifestyle," says personal trainer James Griffiths. "Cortisol plays a big part in our blood sugar by elevating the levels in order for us to deal with stressful situations. But what goes up, must come down, so if our blood sugar goes up via cortisol, eventually it’s going to back down and this yo-yo effect makes us crave sweet foods."
He offers a range of tips for helping to take back charge of your cortisol, including the following:
- Eat every three hours to help maintain your blood sugar.
- Establish good sleep hygiene and get your 8 eight hours a night. Hours before midnight are more valuable than those after, so a 10.30pm bedtime is ideal.
- Eat a high-GI (Glycaemic Index) carb, such as a banana, within 15 minutes of a workout.
Ditch the booze
"Alcoholic drinks are often referred to as “empty” calories. This means that they provide your body with a lot of calories but contain very little nutrients. A night out could mean serious extra calories," says nutritionist and author Christine Bailey. "Additionally when alcohol is consumed, it’s burned first as a fuel source before your body uses anything else. This includes glucose from carbohydrates or lipids from fats. The result? Excess glucose and lipids end up as fat on the body particularly around the tummy." In fact in a study of more than 2,000 people, frequent alcohol consumption was associated with more belly fat.
Why not trade your usual tipple for an alcohol-free plant-based liquor and mixer? Or serve sparking water mixed with elderflower cordial in a glass flute for that 'prosecco effect'?
Stand, don't sit
Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones. One study showed that those people who were more sedentary, i.e. who spent more time sitting, had higher levels of abdominal fat. If you've been thinking about investing in a standing desk to complete your home office, now could be exactly the right time.
Add avocados to your diet
Creamy, filling and packed with superfood goodness there are so many reasons to love the humble avocado. And now we've just learned that munching on it could get us one step closer to those washboard abs; yes really!
"While some foods can be beneficial for weight loss in general, avocados are particularly beneficial in shifting belly fat," says David Wiener, Training Specialist at AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app Freeletics. "Avocados contain high levels of monosaturated fat which can help to slow the release of sugars into the blood stream, helping to reduce blood sugar levels, which in turn helps the body to break down fat. Research shows that foods which decrease the blood sugar level force the body to burn fat in order to release energy."
Which technique will you try first?