Having a flat stomach is on a lot of people's wish list.
It's one of the most common goals I see when consulting with clients, and a simple google search of "flat belly" shows hundreds of pages of articles claiming to share the 'secrets' to a flat belly, or the 'best exercises' to lose belly fat.
Unfortunately, there's more to it than a few exercises and quick tricks BUT there are a few key things you can do, both short and long term, to keep your midsection trim.
Although it seems counter intuitive, being dehydrated can lead to bloating.
As your cells require water for all of your body's chemical reactions, when fluid intake is inadequate your body holds on to water in case supplies are scarce - another throwback to our hunter-gatherer days.
On top of this, the prevalence of processed convenience food means that it's easier than ever to consume more than your recommended daily intake of salt, which exacerbates dehydration.
Limiting salty foods and getting enough fluids from water, green tea, and fruits and vegetables with a high water content (such as watermelon and cucumber) will help reduce abdominal bloating.
See results in: a few days
Related Post: Tips To Stay Hydrated
Limit Sugary Snacks
Processed, sugary snacks are often devoid of fibre (which helps you feel full and know when to stop eating) so they're very easy to overeat. Consuming too many calories leads to weight gain (duh), particularly around the midsection.
This kind of weight gain is caused by an increase in visceral fat, or the fat around your organs, and is considered the most dangerous place to store fat. Not only can it mess with your hormonal balance, but high levels of visceral fat put you at an increased risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Limiting processed snacks can reduce the amount of visceral fat your body has, leading to a flatter tummy.
See results in: a few weeks
Related Post: How To Eat Less Processed Sugar
Avoid Greasy Food
It's not just a general health tip, greasy food is a flat tummy no-no.
Not only will too much greasy food lead to weight gain and an accumulation of visceral fat as explained above, but it will also mess with your digestion.
Fat is broken down slowly and causes delayed gastric emptying - a fancy term for slowing down the digestion that takes place in the stomach. This slowing down of digestion allows gas from the breakdown of food molecules to accumulate, leading to bloating.
See results in: a few days
Most of us see stress as an unavoidable part of daily life. A small amount of stress won’t do any lasting damage, however constant stress has a number of nasty side effects, one of which is increased fat storage around your middle.
Stress causes the release of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a key factor in maintaining our body’s delicate hormonal balance and is an integral part of regulating of our blood pressure, blood glucose levels and immune system.
Constant stress leads to the chronic release of cortisol, which has a two-fold effect on increasing belly fat:
Both physical and mental stress cause increased production and release of cortisol, so managing these sources of stress is a key factor in reducing belly fat.
See results in: weeks to months
Eat The Right Amount of Fibre
Studies have estimated that less than 5% of the adult population gets the recommended amount of fibre each day (that's 25g for women and 30g for men if you need a refresher).
When food moves through your intestines it starts to break down and release gas; fibre acts to 'sweep' the waste products through your system. If you're not eating enough fibre those food particles take longer to move through your bowel, so the gas builds up and causes discomfort, pain and bloating.
However there can be too much of a good thing. Eating too much fibre can also cause bloating and abdominal pain, particularly if your body isn't used to getting enough, so don't go over about 50g of fibre per day.
See results in: days to weeks
Related Post: The Complete Guide To Proper Portion Sizes
Correct Your Posture
It turns out your mother was right – we should all be making an effort not to slouch.
Not only does slouching push your stomach forward, creating what’s known as a stomach ‘pooch’, but slouching lets your abdominal muscles essentially switch off, which will cause them to weaken over time.
For perfect posture: shoulders back and down, core tight, chin up.
See results: instantly
It’s true that doing a thousand sit ups won’t give you a six pack if the layer of fat above the muscle is too thick, but having a strong core is still integral to flattening your stomach.
Toning the muscles helps to pull the muscles together and tighten your abdominal area. The more toned these muscles are, the tighter they will ‘knit’ together and help to give you a flat belly.
See results in: weeks to months
Related Post: The Complete Guide To Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition
High Intensity Interval Training
I put this one in what I like to call ‘The Pantene Pile’ – as in it won’t happen overnight but it will happen. We all know that exercise is good for us and is ultimately on of the two biggest factors controlling belly fat, but do you know which kind of exercise is best for melting away belly fat?
High intensity interval training (HIIT for short) involves alternating cycles of maximum effort and active recovery. Studies have shown that HIIT training is more effective at burning fat than slower, steady paced cardio sessions, and that your body continues to burn fat for up to 24 hours post HIIT session.
What does this mean for you? More fat loss in less time, and less time exercising to maintain a trim tummy. Best of all you can apply HIIT to whatever exercise you enjoy most, be it cycling, running, burpees, weights, swimming - whatever!
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