Health

Getting Rid of Lower Belly Fat: Diet and Nutrition Tips

Published on: June 06, 2019

Getting Rid of Lower Belly Fat: Diet and Nutrition Tips

Have you ever wondered why lower belly fat is so hard to lose? We’re going to explain the science behind belly fat and give you some proven tips to help get rid of it.


What Are the Causes of Lower Belly Fat?

Lower belly fat refers to the fat surrounding your lower abdomen. There are two main types of belly fat:


Subcutaneous (SCAT)

The subcutaneous fat is the fat that sits directly underneath the skin. It’s the fat you can see and pinch with your hands. It’s harmless compared to the visceral fat and may even have some health benefits. However, having too much SCAT can also be a sign of too much visceral fat.


Visceral

Visceral fat is the fat surrounding the internal organ cavities, and it’s more predominant in the abdominal area. Compared to subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is [1]:

  • More metabolically active
  • More sensitive to lipolysis
  • More insulin resistant
  • More sensitive to adrenergic stimulation

Visceral fat also has a higher capacity to produce free fatty acids and uptake glucose than subcutaneous fat. In general, visceral fat contains a higher risk of mortality than SCAT.

Here are some causes of lower belly fat:


Insulin resistance

Insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels; your body needs insulin to help sugar move from your blood to inside your cells where it’s used for energy. Insulin resistance means your body’s cells are not responding correctly to the signals from the insulin hormone. As a result, people with insulin resistance can develop high levels of glucose in the blood, or high blood sugar, over time.

Insulin resistance can cause the excess sugar in your blood to be stored as fat, particularly around your waist. A larger-than-average waist is one sign of insulin resistance [2].

You’re at a higher risk of developing insulin resistance if any of the following apply to you:

  • You’re overweight or obese.
  • You live a sedentary lifestyle.
  • You smoke.
  • You have sleeping difficulties.
  • You have high blood pressure [3].

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Sugary foods and drinks

High sugar intake has been correlated with belly fat. A 2014 cross-sectional analysis study found that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages daily was linked to higher amounts of visceral fat. Surprisingly, even diet soda was positively associated with subcutaneous belly fat, but not visceral fat. [4].


Excessive alcohol consumption

Moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine, has been known to have potential health benefits. Excessive drinking, however, can be detrimental and also contribute to weight gain. A 2010 study carried out on 8,603 participants (men and women) found that excessive alcohol drinking (>20 grams of alcohol/day, where one “standard” drink is about 14 grams of alcohol) was related to a higher waist circumference [5].


Trans fats

Consumption of trans fats is detrimental to health, and it can contribute to abdominal fat accumulation. A 2007 animal study found that the consumption of trans fats by insulin-sensitive monkeys increased belly fat even without an excess calorie diet. Trans-fat intake was also associated with insulin resistance, which can contribute to weight gain [6].


The Dangers of Belly Fat: How Does It Affect Your Health?

Heart disease and diabetes

Excess visceral fat can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by placing pressure on your organs and contributing to the development of blockages in your arteries. Excess visceral fat is also associated with an increased risk of prediabetes and diabetes [7].


Inflammation

While visceral obesity is thought to be pro-inflammatory, one study suggested that the size of abdominal adipocytes or fat cells are more important than the amount of accumulated fat in the abdominal cavity. Big adipocytes are prone to rupture, and cell rupture triggers inflammation. Adipocytes are capable of synthesizing and releasing proinflammatory adipokines and cytokines [8].

Research has found that chronic inflammation is associated with a number of chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and possibly depression [9].


Located near vital organs

Another reason why visceral belly fat can be dangerous is that it’s located near vital organs.


Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance and belly fat have a cyclical pattern; insulin resistance can contribute to belly fat and vice versa.


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12 Simple Diet & Nutrition Tips to Eliminate Lower Belly Fat

1. Reduce sugar intake

High sugar intake has been linked to increased belly fat. If you must drink soda, try making your own by mixing some lemon or lime juice into sparkling water. Try replacing the sugar in your coffee and tea with stevia or another low-carb sweetener as another way to reduce sugar intake.

Other ways to reduce sugar intake include:

  • Using low-carb sweeteners in your foods and drinks.
  • Snacking on protein-based foods (nuts, cheese, etc.) instead of sugary snacks.
  • Reading ingredient labels for hidden sugar.

2. Reduce carbs

Reducing carb intake is a proven way to lose weight, especially abdominal fat. In a 2011 study, 52 subjects with type 2 diabetes were put on a low-carb diet for six months. Their results showed a significant reduction in visceral fat, especially in women [10].

Here are some ways to reduce your carb intake:

  • Try cauliflower rice instead of regular rice
  • Make low-carb bread at home, or omit bread altogether, e.g. burger without the bun.
  • Eat eggs or other protein-based foods for breakfast instead of cereals, breads, etc.
  • Replace regular flour with low-carb flours such as coconut and almond flours.

You could also consider going on the keto diet to lose weight. A lot of people in the keto community have testified that keto helped them lose stubborn belly fat through following a very low-carbohydrate diet.


3. Eat more protein

Protein can increase your satiety and help reduce your cravings, which means you may eat fewer calories than you usually do. It has also been found to be useful for weight loss. Another way protein can help lose belly fat is by boosting your metabolism. Some studies have also noted that protein intake was inversely related to body fat [11].


4. Eat more healthy fats

Not all fats are bad for you. Eating more healthy fat sources on a reduced calorie diet may help with weight loss because it helps make you feel fuller for longer and reduce your cravings. Unsaturated fat is the kind of fat most often considered healthy, and sources include avocados, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils.


Yogurt-and-milk-in-glass-on-a-light-green-wood-table

5. Avoid low-fat foods

Many low-fat food items sold are full of added sugar and additives. As a result, you may end up eating more sugar and empty calories. A 2016 systematic review found that many low-fat, nonfat and “light” varieties of foods contain more sugar than regular versions, despite being lower in total calories [12]. Instead of filling up on low-fat, high-sugar foods, it would be more beneficial to eat full-fat whole foods instead.

Here are some examples of low-fat foods that you should avoid:

  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat peanut butter
  • Low-fat coffee beverages
  • Low-fat breakfast cereals
  • Low-fat baked goods

6. Keep a food journal

Keeping a food and water diary can be useful when you’re trying to lose belly fat because it can help you track what might be holding you back when it comes to your health goals. Many people don’t realize how much they eat because we’re often distracted and rushed when eating.

Here are some things to track on your food diary:

  • What and how much you ate
  • Eating time
  • What you were doing when you ate
  • How you were feeling when you ate (this can help identify if you’re an emotional eater, e.g. eating when you’re stressed, bored or tired.)

Many weight loss apps can help you track your eating habits to make it easier to keep track of throughout the day. Some examples of these apps include Lost It!, MyFitnessPal, and FatSecret.


7. Drink more water

Drinking more water can help suppress your appetite and help control your cravings. In a 2014 study, 50 overweight female participants were instructed to drink 500 milliliters of water 30 minutes before each of their three meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). The study lasted for eight weeks, and the results showed that the participants had a reduction in weight and body fat. They also experienced appetite suppression [13].


8. Read food labels

Reading food labels is one thing that many of us don’t think about, but we should. Food labels can let you know exactly how many calories and how much of each macronutrient is present in your store-bought food items. You’ll be surprised how many calories and added sugar could be present in some foods advertised as “low carb” or “healthy.” Reading the label can help you make more informed choices about your eating habits and help you avoid foods that may contribute to unwanted fat or weight gain.


9. Meal prep

Consider meal prepping if you’re busy and don’t have much time for daily cooking. Meal prepping may take a few hours to prepare and cook the meals you need for an entire week. It’s a time worth investing because it can help save a lot of time and effort later on.


Meal prepping can also reduce your risk of varying from your diet goals when you’re hungry. Another great thing about meal prepping is that it can help you balance the macronutrients for each meal so you’ll be getting the right amount of carbs, fat, and protein for each meal.


10. Healthy snacks

Consider keeping small portions of healthy snacks available to eat whenever your cravings kick in or to take when you’re traveling. This can also reduce your temptations to eat sugary foods when they’re available.

Cheese and nuts are great, but you could also try fat bombs if you’re on a low carb diet. Fat bombs are super easy to make and taste delicious, as well as help to keep you feeling full and cravings at bay.


Tea-in-teapot-with-ginger-roots-and-lemon-slices-on-white-wooden-background

11. Ginger tea

Ginger is a natural appetite suppressant. In a 2012 study, ten overweight male participants were assigned to have their breakfast meal with or without 2 grams of ginger powder dissolved in hot water. Their results revealed that ginger enhanced thermogenesis and suppressed their appetite for up to 6 hours after the meal [14].

You can use ginger powder as they did in the study, or you can also use fresh ginger to make your tea. It’s easy and only takes a few minutes to prepare: peel the skin off a half-inch piece of ginger and allow it to simmer in water for about five minutes. After that, add your tea bag or tea powder and make your tea as you usually would. Remove the ginger when you’re ready to drink the tea. You could also crush the ginger before allowing it to simmer if you want a strong cup of ginger tea.


12. Green tea

Green tea is another hopeful weight-loss remedy. A 2009 study found that green tea enhances exercise-induced belly fat loss. In this study, overweight and obese participants were assigned to have 625 milligrams of green tea catechins with 39 milligrams of caffeine or a control beverage containing the same amount of caffeine but no green tea catechins.

The participants also took part in weekly moderate-intensity exercises for the duration of the 12-week study. The results showed a more significant weight loss trend in the catechin green tea compared to the control group [15].


Other Ways to Get Rid of Lower Belly Fat

Avoid targeted weight loss theories

Doing 200 crunches a day may help tone your abdominal muscles, but it won’t necessarily help you lose belly fat. A lot of people waste time on targeted weight loss methods for belly fat, but it doesn’t work that way. You need to lose weight overall in order to target loss of belly fat. In a 2011 study, 24 sedentary participants divided into two study groups: abdominal exercises and a control group. The duration of the study was six weeks. Their results revealed that abdominal exercises alone were not sufficient enough to lose subcutaneous belly fat, though it did help improve muscular endurance compared to the control group [16].


Sleep

Sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain by interfering with satiety hormones and increasing hunger hormones. It can also cause fatigue to the point of reducing overall physical activity levels. Another way that lack of sleep can affect your weight is by contributing to stress. Studies have found that sleep deprivation in children is an independent risk factor for weight gain and obesity [17].

If you suffer from sleep problems, consider changing your nighttime routine to see if that helps. Here are some things you can try:

  • Put away your phone and other electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Keep your bedroom environment dark when you’re ready to sleep.
  • Read a book or listen to soothing music at bedtime.
  • Have a small healthy snack, such as nuts, to prevent any late-night cravings.

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High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

When it comes to exercise, high-level interval training workouts may be beneficial for weight loss, including belly fat. HIIT is when you do short bursts of vigorous exercise like sprinting followed by a few minutes of low-intensity exercise like jogging. A 2018 meta-analysis study found that high-intensity interval training exercises can help reduce abdominal and visceral fat mass [18].


Conclusion

Lower belly fat might be harder to lose for several reasons. However, it is possible to lose lower belly fat using some of the tips we’ve discussed, such as cutting down on sugar consumption and doing high-intensity interval workouts.


Takeaways

  • There are two types of belly fat: visceral and subcutaneous fat.
  • Visceral fat is the invisible fat that surrounds your internal organs, particularly in the abdominal region. Visceral fat is associated with health consequences such as cardiovascular disease.
  • Subcutaneous fat (SCAT) is the kind of fat you can pinch and see. Having too much of it can be a sign of unhealthy amounts of visceral fat.
  • You can successfully cut down on lower belly fat with the tips we’ve discussed, such as going on a low carb diet, eating more protein, and practicing high-intensity interval workouts.

References:

  1. Ibrahim MM. Subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue: structural and functional differences. 2009 July 28 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19656312
  2. Tabata S et al. Waist circumference and insulin resistance: a cross-sectional study of Japanese men. 2009 January 12 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2635363/
  3. Felman A. What... View all references

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