There are two different types of belly fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat lies just under your skin. Visceral fat occurs around your inner organs. Too much visceral fat can lead to health complications.
This article will explain what belly fat is and detail 15 scientific methods to lose it. These methods include managing your diet, exercising, and practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Most bellies consist of both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. You can feel subcutaneous fat under the skin of your belly. Excess visceral fat sits in your abdomen around your liver, intestines, and pancreas.
Research shows that visceral fat is a major risk factor for various conditions, such as:
Researchers are unsure why the visceral fat around your organs impacts your health more than subcutaneous fat. It may be the location of visceral fat deposits or the molecular structure of the fat.
Interestingly, people who are thin can also have excess fat around the belly.
It is important to understand that you cannot “spot reduce” particular areas of fat in the body. People store fat naturally in various places, depending on genetics and body type. The strategies below can help promote all-around body fat loss, including belly fat.
Sugary foods are not ideal energy sources and tend to have little nutritional value. Your body digests these sugars very quickly. As such, foods high in sugar do not satisfy your hunger for long periods.
Sugary foods may include:
- fruit juice
2. Avoid trans fats in foods
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that can occur naturally in small amounts in products such as milk and meat. In moderate amounts, they are not harmful to your health.
In the food industry, manufacturers often turn liquid oils into solid or saturated fats to increase shelf stability. This process, called hydrogenation, produces artificial trans fats. There is conflicting data about whether or not these artificial trans fats contribute to obesity.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has restricted the use of trans fats in United States food industries. However, trans fats still exist in products such as:
- fast foods
- commercially baked foods
- fried goods
Eating protein may help you lose weight. Protein increases the levels of hormones in your blood that make you feel full. At the same time, it reduces the levels of hormones that make you feel hungry.
Protein also appears to have a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates and fat when you eat. In other words, your body requires more energy to digest and metabolize protein than other macronutrients.
Protein occurs in foods such as:
- chicken breast
- turkey breast
- dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
- nuts and seeds
- lean beef
Protein intake also helps maintain and build lead muscle mass. Lean muscle helps you burn more calories at rest and can support fat loss.
A diet that is high in fiber can help you lose belly fat. Research shows that high fiber foods impact weight loss beyond just providing fiber. They also slow your eating rate, satisfy your hunger with fewer calories, and can have low sugar and fat contents.
Foods that are high in fiber include:
- whole grains, such as:
- brown rice
- whole wheat bread
- fruits, such as berries, apples, and guava
- vegetables, such as broccoli
Read more about foods high in fiber here.
Limiting alcohol may be one of the best ways to lose belly fat. Research on alcohol consumption finds that heavy drinking leads to higher fat levels.
Alcoholic drinks often contain added sugar, which can contribute to weight gain.
Increased levels of stress can play a role in storing excess visceral fat. Research links high levels of chronic stress to an increased risk of gaining visceral fat.
Possible explanations include a higher risk of consuming highly palatable, processed foods. Stress may also decrease your ability to self-regulate eating behaviors.
Additionally, the hormone cortisol, which releases when you feel stressed, may help store visceral fat.
Ways to manage or relieve stress include:
- deep breathing
- guided imagery
7. Get regular cardiovascular exercise
Regular exercise, particularly a mix of cardiovascular and strength training, can help you reduce visceral fat.
Cardio exercises can include:
Cardio exercises raise your heart rate, increase cardiovascular health, and expend calories, all of which support fat loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.
Any type of exercise may help you lose belly fat, and that includes lifting weights. If you want to lose belly fat, strength training is possibly your best option.
Strength training involves building and maintaining muscle, which increases metabolic rate. More muscle mass means you burn more calories at rest, supporting fat loss.
Combining high intensity resistance training with moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity is especially helpful for fat loss.
Not all carbs lead to an increase in belly fat. In fact, carbs rich in fiber, such as whole wheat bread and pasta, may help you lose weight.
In contrast, a diet high in refined carbs may contribute to higher levels of belly fat. These include foods such as:
- products made from white flour, such as:
- white bread
- white rice
- sugary breakfast cereals
10. Drink water and avoid sugary drinks
Sugary drinks contain empty calories that can lead to weight gain. By replacing these drinks with water, you can cut your calorie intake. You can flavor your water with slices of lemon, cucumbers, or natural teas.
Examples of sugary drinks include:
- energy drinks
- fruit-flavored beverages
Research has shown that if you sleep less and have poor sleep quality, you are more likely to gain weight. Sleep plays an important role in your neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism.
Sleep loss relates to many changes in bodily functions, which may promote weight gain. These changes include:
- decreased glucose tolerance
- decreased insulin sensitivity
- increased concentrations of cortisol in the evening
- increased hunger and appetite
Good sleep habits include following an evening routine, sleeping in a dark room, and avoiding screen time before going to bed.
12. Eat foods high in omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids may help you lose belly fat. You can find these fatty acids naturally in foods such as:
- albacore tuna
- wild salmon
Read more about omega-3 here.
13. Add probiotics to your diet
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut and regulate many aspects of health, including gut health. A 2021 review shows that adding probiotics to your diet may support weight management.
The study’s participants used probiotics for 12 weeks and saw a decrease in weight, regardless of lifestyle and eating habits.
Specific strains of the genus Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium showed the best results in reducing body weight. However, more research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of probiotics for weight management.
Read more about digestive health here.
A 2016 review shows that drinking 3–4 cups of green tea daily may support weight loss. The same amount of tea may also prevent diabetes and heart disease. It appears that green tea prevents the absorption of fats in the intestine.
Read about the benefits of green tea here.
15. Practice a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle may include:
- nutritious foods, which include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and minimally processed foods
- mental well-being
- social connection
- physical activity
- good sleep habits
A healthy lifestyle also includes avoiding substances that are harmful to your health. By following healthy lifestyle habits, your overall well-being can improve.
Belly fat consists of both subcutaneous and visceral fat. By incorporating some lifestyle habits, such as eating well and exercising regularly, you can find the best way to lose belly fat.
You cannot target particular areas for reducing body fat. However, you can practice healthy behaviors to support weight management.