How to Get Rid of Belly Fat with Food

Dec 10, 2018

 

You Will Learn  

  • Why belly fat is risky for your health.
  • How much belly fat is too much.
  • How to measure your belly fat.
  • Six ways to get rid of belly fat with food.    

 

Why is Belly Fat Risky?  

When it comes to fat around your abdomen, there are 2 types:  

  • Subcutaneous Fat: Fat under your skin and on top of your muscles that you can grab with your hands.  
  • Visceral Fat: Fat under your muscle layer that surrounds your internal organs.  

The visceral fat releases inflammatory agents, fatty acids, and hormones that lead to higher LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure.4 This increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.  

 

How Much Belly Fat is Too Much?  

Even if you are not overweight, having a large waist may mean you are at increased risk for developing health problems.  

According to the International Diabetes Federation, your risk for disease increases if your waist circumference is greater than 31.5 inches for women and 35.5 inches for men.3  

 

How to Measure Your Waist Circumference  

Use a tape measure around the circumference of your “natural waist”. This is the narrowest area above your belly button and below the bottom of your ribcage.  

Measure on bare skin at the end of a normal exhalation. The tape should be taught but not constricting.  

 

6 Ways to Get Rid of Belly Fat with Food

1. Cut the Sugar  

According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugar you should eat in a day is less than you might think.  

Men: 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons or 150 calories)  

Women: 24 grams (6 teaspoons or 100 calories)1  

For reference, one Clif energy bar (typically found in the ‘health food’ aisle) has 22 grams of sugar. One can of Pepsi has 41 grams of sugar. Ditching pop, although easier said than done, is one of the fastest ways to lose weight.  

 

2. Get Your Carbs from Non-starchy Vegetables  

Your body processes bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and other foods high in simple carbohydrates in the same way as sugary foods. Excess will be turned into fat. Because these foods are relatively low in fiber, protein, and fat it is also easy to overeat them.  

Whole grains are better than white or refined versions because they have more fiber which will slow digestion and keep you fuller for longer. Vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates, high in fiber, and high in vitamins and minerals so are a great choice when trying to trim your waistline.  

 

3. Lower Your Net Carbs  

Net carbs are simply the total carbohydrates minus the fiber in a food. There is no gold standard for how many net carbs to eat per day. I find that 100-150 grams of net carbs per day allows for plenty of non-starchy vegetables. A very-low carbohydrate diet such as the Keto diet typically recommends only about 25 grams of net carbs per day.  

Tracking your food intake using a phone application such as Carb Manager or My Fitness Pal makes calculating your net carbs easy. Very active individuals may benefit from increased carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, low sugar fruits, or vegetables.  

 

4. Eat More Protein  

Multiple studies show that consuming 2-3x the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein, with 25-30 grams consumed at each meal when losing weight helps reduce the loss of muscle mass.(2, 5-8) The minimum RDA for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight.  

For example, a 170 pound female would need 124-185 grams of protein per day depending on her activity level. All too often, foods we think are ‘healthy’ are no more than a bunch of processed carbohydrates and excellent marketing. Exhibit A: 1 cup of Special K Red Berries Cereal has 2 grams of protein, 9 grams of sugar, and 24 grams of net carbs, so unfortunately not the best choice when trying to lose weight.  

 

5. Make a Calorie Deficit  

In order to lose belly fat, there has to be a calorie deficit, more calories out than in. Caloric needs will vary depending on your goals, age, weight, and activity levels. The Carb Manager or My Fitness Pal App makes the dreaded “counting calories” easier. When trying to lose weight, ½ to 1 pound per week is usually attainable (and tolerable) with an emphasis on healthy fats, protein, and non-starchy vegetables. 

 

6. Eat Healthy Fats  

When trying to lose belly fat, you do not need to stop eating fat! But not all fats are created equal. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are better for you than saturated fat, which is better for you than trans fats. Nuts, avocados, and olive oil are all healthy and delicious fats to include in your diet.  

 

Why I Didn’t Talk About Crunches or Planks  

Simple. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Getting rid of belly fat starts in the kitchen. Until you get rid of the fat on top of your muscle, you can’t see your muscles.  

 

Bottom Line  

Too much belly (visceral) fat can be harmful to your health and increase your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. The only way to get rid of this belly fat is by changing your diet.  

 

Action Items  

  • Measure your waist circumference as described above and check to see if you are in the higher risk category.
  • Track how much added sugar you eat in one day. Try to stay under the recommended daily limit of 25 grams for women and 37.5 grams for men. 
  • Are you getting 25-30 grams of protein at each meal? If not, try to gradually increase the protein and healthy fats in your meals and decrease the carbs.  

  

References  

1. Despres JP. Health consequences of visceral obesity. Ann Med. 2001;33:534-41.

2. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Kang J, Falvo MJ, Faigenbaum AD. Effect of Protein Intake on Strength, Body Composition and Endocrine 3. Changes in Strength/Power Athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2006;3(2):12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-3-2-12. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-3-2-12.

3. International Diabetes Federation. The IDF consensus worldwide definition of metabolic syndrome. Brussels. 2006.

4. Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands M, et al. Dietary Sugars Intake and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation. 2009;120(11):1011-1020. doi:10.1161/circulationaha.109.192627. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19704096.

5. Lemon PW. Is Increased Dietary Protein Necessary or Beneficial for Individuals with a Physically Active Lifestyle? Nutrition Reviews. 2009;54(4). doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.1996.tb03913.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8700446.

6. Longland TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchell CJ, Devries MC, Phillips SM. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical 8. Nutrition. 2016;103(3):738-746. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.119339. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/103/3/738/4564609.

7. Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased Protein Intake Reduces Lean Body Mass Loss during Weight Loss in Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2010;42(2):326-337. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3181b2ef8e. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927027.

8. Phillips SM, Loon LJV. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences. 2011;29(sup1). doi:10.1080/02640414.2011.619204. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22150425.

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