The Best Ways to Lose Belly Fat, According to Science

If there’s one place fat frustrates us the most, it’s around the middle. But you can’t just wish belly fat away. Try these science-backed tips and tricks that have been tested by research to help you lose stubborn belly fat.

Photo: Roberto Caruso

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Trying to beat belly fat? It certainly isn’t easy. While you might see success and lose weight overall, getting rid of your unwanted belly fat isn’t always accomplished by simply cutting back on calories and working out daily. 

Of course, there’s no one magic trick that’ll eliminate the extra weight you might be carrying. Belly fat is particularly stubborn – and minimizing it often requires multiple lifestyle changes and approaches. But in order to see any changes, you’ve got to find tried-and-true diet and lifestyle changes that’ll actually have an impact.  

If you’re frustrated by belly fat, try these science-backed changes that just might make the difference you’ve been hoping for.

Prioritize fatty fish

There’s plenty of evidence that fatty fish is fantastic for your health and weight loss. Rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, fatty fish can protect your brain, keep your liver healthy and help you live longer.

Salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and other varieties of fatty fish can also be helpful when you’re trying to get rid of belly fat, science says. In fact, research suggests that it’s the very same omega-3s that are good for your overall health that help. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce visceral fat within the body. Visceral fat is typically stored in your abdomen.

And multiple studies have found that taking fish oil supplements, paired with other healthy lifestyle changes like regular exercise, can significantly reduce fat in both the abdomen and the liver

Make fatty fish the primary protein in your diet and try to get in a few servings each week. You can enjoy plenty of variety – just try recipes like our Wild Mushroom Salmon with Asparagus or Pizza with Sardines and Fennel. You can even make fatty fish into a delicious side dish with our Wild Salmon Side with Lemony Dill Dressing.

Eat more soluble fiber

Lose Belly Fat with Fiber

Fiber is another essential nutrient for all-around health and wellness. But it’s particularly beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight. And soluble fiber is even more important.

Soluble fiber absorbs water and helps slow down food as it hits your digestive system. This means you can feel full more easily, which in turn helps you naturally eat smaller portions and fewer calories. But most importantly of all, research shows that soluble fiber can help lower the amount of calories your body absorbs from food.

Plus, a 2012 research study found that soluble fiber can help reduce belly fat. After observing more than 1,100 adults, the study’s authors saw that increasing soluble fiber intake by 10 grams led to a 3.7 percent decrease in belly fat gain over five years. And the benefits increased with every additional 10 grams of soluble fiber.

Where can you find soluble fiber? It’s in plenty of fruits and veggies – avocados, Brussels sprouts and blackberries are great sources. But you’ll also find it in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil and a number of legumes, including black beans and kidney beans. Shirataki noodles are also rich in soluble fiber, making recipes like our Sesame Coconut-Crusted Halibut with Shirataki Vegetable Stir-Fry and Clean Pho-Style Noodle Soup great fiber-filled dishes.

Take probiotics

You already know how fantastic probiotics can be for your gut health – and now, there’s science-based evidence that they’re an ally in losing belly fat too. Research has shown that the different types of bacteria present in probiotics can help regulate your weight and, when well-balanced, your gut bacteria may aid weight loss and belly fat loss.

A 2013 research study demonstrated that taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus supplements had a significant effect on women, helping those who took the probiotic supplement lose both weight and body fat. Another study published in 2013 found that taking the probiotics Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus had similar results – both strains reduced body fat mass overall. And when it comes to belly fat, a 2010 study showed that taking probiotics with Lactobacillus gasseri may help reduce body weight, BMI and waist circumference as well as visceral fat in the abdomen. A 2013 study showed similar results with Lactobacillus gasseri, as participants in the study saw their visceral abdominal fat decrease by an average of 8.5 percent.

You can take probiotic supplements with these particular strains of bacteria. Or, you can try fermented foods that naturally include the beneficial bacteria found in supplements. Try some of our probiotic-rich recipes to incorporate fermented foods into your daily diet. 

Lower your stress level

Stress is a sneaky but hugely significant factor in both gaining and losing belly fat. When you’re stressed out, your adrenal glands are producing more cortisol (the stress hormone). And research suggests that high levels of cortisol can lead to a bigger appetite and an increase in the amount of fat stored in your abdomen. Plus, as a 2018 research review noted, having higher cortisol levels over the long-term can increase your risk for abdominal obesity.

So, if you’re able to lower your stress, you can combat its impact on belly fat. Try soothing stress through aromatherapy with essential oils, calming herbal remedies like Churna or simply engaging in relaxing activities like your favorite hobbies, yoga and meditation.

Eat more protein

Lose Belly Fat with Protein

Sure, protein builds muscles. But it’s responsible for so much more, especially when it comes to weight management and weight loss. Eating plenty of protein can help increase your satiety and lower your appetite.

But protein can also increase your metabolic rate, or the speed at which your metabolism burns calories. Multiple research studies show that protein has a helpful effect on both weight loss and abdominal fat. Both a 2004 research review and a 2013 study found that body fat mass and weight decreased on higher-protein diets. And a number of observational research studies, including a 2005 study of multi-ethnic populations and a 2012 study, showed that diets high in high-quality protein are inversely associated with abdominal fat.

Or, to put it simply, eating more protein leads to less belly fat.

A great way to get plenty of belly fat fighting nutritional benefits? Eat fatty fish to get your fill of high-quality protein. You’ll get more bang for your buck in each bite. But fish and other kinds of meat aren’t the only sources of protein. You can also try eggs, dairy and legumes. Check out our guide to veg-based protein to find even more plants rich in this key nutrient. And you can always try incorporating clean protein powders into smoothies and shakes for an added boost.

Try a combination of cardio and resistance training

You can’t fight belly fat without exercise and regular heart-pumping activity. But if you’ve been hitting cardio hard for weeks on end without seeing results, that’s because sweaty workouts alone won’t get you very far.

Exercise of any kind is great for your health and your weight loss goals. But belly fat requires a more targeted and specific approach. According to research, you need to combine cardio with resistance training. 

Cardio burns a lot of calories, and a 2007 research review suggests that multiple studies point to cardio as highly effective for reducing belly fat. But cardio alone won’t get rid of this stubborn fat. While intensity matters for calorie burning, it’s really the frequency and duration of your workouts that matter most of all.

And when you pair cardio with regular resistance training (or strength training), science says you’ll increase your belly fat loss. A 2014 research study that examined overweight teenagers found that combining the two types of workouts led to the biggest overall drop in visceral fat. The participants were split into two groups: One that performed aerobic exercise alone and one that performed both aerobic and strength training exercise. By the study’s end, the aerobic and strength training group saw better results and bigger decreases in both subcutaneous and visceral fat – and they built more lean muscle too.

As you plan your workouts, try to incorporate at least a few of each variety weekly. You can also try combination classes or workouts that bring both cardio and resistance training together into one convenient format.

To learn more about targeting and tackling belly fat, keep reading:

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