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Best Ways to Reduce Belly Fat

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Many people choose to lose weight for health reasons. Some choose to do it for vanity and aesthetics. But regardless of why you want to improve your physique, belly fat is something that none of us want.

In this article we’ve used our collective expertise to tell you all you need to know about the middle-spread and how to get rid if it. Follow these and you’ll have a better body before you know it.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • What is belly fat?
  • What are the health consequences of a middle-spread?
  • How can you get rid of it?

What is Belly Fat?

The fat that accumulates around your middle is often referred to as belly fat. In the more sciency literature you’ll hear this type of fat called visceral adipose tissue, and it’s the type of fat deposits deep within the abdominal cavity, not on top of it.

Belly fat is more dangerous than the type of surface fat that grows just under the skin around your arms. In fact, studies show that those with excess fat around their hips and thighs are at no significantly higher risk of metabolic illness than normal weight individuals [1].

It can compress your internal organs, leading to restricted blood flow and that can lead to a range of different illnesses.

Belly fat is directly correlated to a number of cardio-metabolic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis – a disease where the arteries narrow and harden due to fatty deposit build up called plaque.

Visceral fat is measured using waist circumference measurements – anything over 35 inches for a woman and 40 inches for a man is clinically diagnosed as abdominal obesity or metabolic obesity.

You can also go one further and use a waist to hip ratio test which was developed by the World Health Organisation [2]. In this quick test you take a measurement around your waist (in line with your belly button) and divide that number by the measurement of your hip (widest part).

According to WHO statistics, if a female has a ratio exceeding 0.85 and a male 1.0, they are at high risk of a metabolic illness. Independent test have found that the waist to hip ratio calculation is an effective way to determine risk of cardiovascular disease – for every 0.01 increase in waist to hip ratio, risk goes up by 5% [3].

So as you can see, the consequences of too much belly fat is quite severe. A very general exercise or diet plan alone might not even be the best way to drop this type of fat either – to really focus on reducing your visceral adipose levels you need to address the root issues.

Here are the best ways to get rid of it – and get those flat abs back…


belly-fat-waist-hip-ratio

Key Point: Visceral adipose tissue or ‘belly fat’ is a dangerous type of obesity that increases the risk of a number of metabolic illnesses.


#1. Up Your Protein

One of the best long-term strategies for weight loss is to increase the amount of protein you get in your diet. This is definitely a food source to focus on if you are wanting to lose weight.

It has the highest thermic effect of food rating, meaning that in order to digest it, it ramps up your metabolism more than carbs or fat. In fact, protein consumption will elevate your metabolic rate by 30%. When compared to 5-10% for carbs and 3% for fat, that’s quite high [4].

It is recommended that when undertaking an exercise program, you should consume around 1.8-2.0g per kg of body weight in protein. This helps to maximize the amount of lean muscle tissue you have, which in itself will ramp up your metabolic rate.

On top of that, studies have shown that protein increases feeling of fullness or satiety, boost fat loss by up to 10%, reduce daily calories by over 440 kcal and reduce waist circumference too [5, 6, 7].


protein

#2. Drop the sugary snacks and drinks

Modern western diet is full of sugary foods. Even if you think you’re consuming foods or drinks without sugar, it can sometimes be hidden as other ingredients. Dextrose, fructose, sucrose and corn syrup are all sugary sweeteners that you’ll find in a range of different foods and drinks.

A huge number of studies have shown that when you consume sugar in high amounts it can lead to an increase in belly fat. Over time, this increases insulin resistance and starts a downward spiral to type 2 diabetes, and eventually artery disease.

You’ll find more than 8 teaspoons of sugar in a can of soda, and at 4 kcal per gram that’s a hell of a lot of calories too. The problem is though that calories obtained from sugary drinks don’t fill you up – a study published in International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders [8] found that when a group of female volunteers consumed 450 kcal of soda on top of a daily diet, overall calorie intake increased by 17%.

With the direct correlation to increased belly fat, along with all of the health consequences from excess sugar, we’d strongly advise that you eliminate all sweet and sugary snacks and drinks from your diet as a priority.


Soda-and-Sugar

#3. Reduce carbs for better insulin sensitivity

Healthy, unprocessed carbs are an essential nutrient, particularly for those undertaking intense exercise. But as belly fat increases, you become less sensitive to insulin – the hormone released from the pancreas that lowers the effects of the glucose.

We’re not saying that you need to eliminate carbs altogether, but numerous studies have found the reducing intake helps you lose fat.

You should start by eliminating all sugary snacks and drinks (see point #2.). By doing this you’ll notice a difference straight away. Next, reduce grains and other starches as see what happens. Not only will this help you lose fat, you’ll lose a lot of water weight too. You can still eat cruciferous vegetables etc. as they provide essential vitamins and minerals.

A recent Japanese study [9] found that reducing carbs to around 40% of daily food intake over 12 months led to a significant reduction in visceral fat and also overall body fat.

Eat a small amount of carbs later on at night as it helps the body release the neurotransmitter serotonin (this will help you get a good night’s sleep). Eat them after workouts too when your body will need to restore lost energy. Any other time you should be restricting them to a minimum until your bell fat has reduced.


carbohydrate-meal

#4. Get enough sleep

We can’t stress enough how important it is to get good quality sleep for decreasing belly fat.

As adipose tissue accumulates around your stomach, you get an increase in cortisol – the body’s stress hormone. This then stars a vicious cycle because cortisol forces an increase in belly fat, which then increases cortisol even further, and on it continues.

Restricted sleep decreases how efficient your immune system is, lowers both athletic and cognitive performance and of course leads to a higher amount of circulating cortisol.

Studies show that there is a strong relationship between those that only sleep for short duration and weight gain. In fact, a large study in the journal Sleep [10] reported that children were 89% more likely to be overweight adults if they didn’t get 8 hours of sleep per night.

Additional research shows that only limited sleep can affect your appetite hormones too [11]. When over 1000 volunteers slept for only 5 hours instead of 8, leptin levels were 15.5% lower and ghrelin was 14.9% higher. As leptin is important for increasing satiety and ghrelin stimulates your appetite, this is a surefire sign that you’ll end up overeating.


tired-sleep

#5. Focus on key nutrients

There are a huge number of nutrients that have been shown to help with belly fat loss in independent trials. Whilst these won’t replace a good, all-round healthy diet, they will assist in speeding up the process.

Green tea is a potent thermogenic that has been found to speed up metabolism, raise energy levels and burn fat in a number of clinical trials. The active catechin compound found in the nutrient – ECGC – has been found to boost energy expenditure and fat oxidation by 16% [12] and offset the loss of metabolic rate when dieting [13]. This is definitely a nutrient worth including in your fat loss dietary plan.

Likewise, the active compound in chili peppers – capsaicin – has also been shown to have potent thermogenic effects. As long as you don’t mind a bit of heat in your food, spices like cayenne pepper have been show to help with weight loss, boost metabolism and fat oxidation, and reduce energy intake in numerous studies [14, 15].


thermogenics

Summary

Excess belly fat is a danger to your long-term health. As the amount of visceral adipose tissue you have increases, so does your risk of atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease.

General dieting and exercise alone will help, but in order to really maximize your physique you’ll need to incorporate specific changes to your lifestlye. Add these to your daily routine and you’ll have a much more confident, healthier body in no time.


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References

  1. Hamdy, O et al. Metabolic obesity: the paradox between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2006 Nov;2(4):367-7
  2. WHO. Waist Circumference and Waist–Hip Ratio: Report of a WHO Expert Consultation Geneva, 8–11 December 2008
  3. de Koning, L et al. Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio as predictors of cardiovascular events: meta-regression analysis of prospective studies. Eur Heart J. 2007; 28(7): 850-856
  4. van Baak, MA. Meal-induced activation of the sympathetic nervous system and its cardiovascular and thermogenic effects in man. Physiol Behav 2008; 94: 178-86.
  5. Weigle, DS et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations Am J Clin Nutr. 200582(1): 41-48
  6. Due, A et al. Effect of normal-fat diets, either medium or high in protein, on body weight in overweight subjects: a randomised 1-year trial. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004; 28(10): 1283-90.
  7. Halkjaer, J et al. Intake of macronutrients as predictors of 5-y changes in waist circumference. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006; 84(4): 789-97
  8. DiMeglio, DP et al. Liquid versus solid carbohydrate: effects on food intake and body weight. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000; 24(6): 794-800
  9. Sasakabe, T et al. Association of decrease in carbohydrate intake with reduction in abdominal fat during 3-month moderate low-carbohydrate diet among non-obese Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes. Metabolism. 2015; 64(5): 618-25
  10. Cappuccio, FP et al. Meta-Analysis of Short Sleep Duration and Obesity in Children and Adults. Sleep. 2008; 31(5): 619–626
  11. Taheri, S et al. Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index. PLoS Med. 2004; 1(3): e62
  12. Hursel R et al. The effects of catechin rich teas and caffeine on energy expenditure and fat oxidation: A meta-analysis. Obes. Rev. 2011; 12: e573–e581
  13. Hursel, R et al. Catechin- and caffeine-rich teas for control of body weight in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 98(6 Suppl): 1682S-1693S


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