30-Day Countdown: How to Get a Flat Belly
The official start of summer will be here soon enough, but if you aren't in tip-top shape just yet there's no need to worry. Why? Because by making a few simple changes to what you eat, what you do, and how you exercise, you can go from flab to fab in about a month.
Since the best way to lose weight and stay in shape involves a combination eating right and exercising, we've included both types of tips on our list, and also interspersed some valuable habits to keep in mind if you're looking for a flat belly.
While tossing some berries and nuts into your oatmeal is a great way to boost your intake of satiating protein and fiber that will transform your tummy for the better, so too is doing some core-engaging flat planks. Couple those adjustments with ensuring you get a solid eight hours of sleep each night, and watch the belly fat disappear faster than the sunscreen you can never seem to buy enough of. For more words of belly-blasting wisdom, keep reading, and try out any of the 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Do Some Flat Planks
To start off your quest for a flat belly this summer, why not begin with a simple and versatile exercise you can do whenever you have a spare 5 minutes? Flat planks engage your core, and they are the single most effective move that works every muscle in your body. Whether you're doing some flat planks while you watch TV at night or in your office during some downtime, they will have your abs (and the rest of you) looking fit and toned in no time. "If you can only do it for 30 seconds before collapsing, try to add 10 seconds to it each time you attempt it," Mark Langowski, NASM, ACSM, celebrity trainer and CEO of Body By Mark Wellness, advises. "Do this for three sets every other day and you'll start seeing results!"
RELATED: Learn how to fire up your metabolism and lose weight the smart way.
Sleep 7 to 8 Hours
In addition to exercise, getting in shape quickly will require some habit changes. For starters, make sure you're getting enough sleep each night. According to Wake Forest researchers, dieters who sleep five hours or less put on two and a half times more belly fat, while those who sleep more than eight hours pack on slightly less than that. Though that might not sound like much, when you have a regular bedtime and stick to it, you set yourself up for day-in, day-out weight loss.
"Proper sleep is crucial for weight loss. Too little sleep leads to poor food choices, largely due to increased levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Too little sleep also decreases levels of leptin, a hormone that helps satiate your appetite. Lack of sleep also clouds judgment and causes impulse decision making, which inevitably leads to poor food choices," adds founder and Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo, Chris Brantner.
Snack On Popcorn
For a flat belly, put down the chips and cookies and snack on some air-popped popcorn instead. The air-popped stuff doesn't have the salt and fat that comes with unhealthy microwave popcorn that's usually doused in butter, and it's also an excellent source of satiating fiber and protein. In fact, one cup of popcorn popped fresh in olive oil and lightly salted has 2 grams of fiber, one gram of protein, and is only 40 calories. To add some flavor to the tasty, low-calorie treat, make use of metabolism-boosting spices such as cinnamon or cayenne pepper. For more ways to boost your fiber intake, check out high fiber foods!
Try Flutter Kicks And Criss Crosses
If you want a flat belly in a matter of days, you better be ready to work for it and feel the burn. That's where the killer combo of flutter kicks and crisscrosses comes in. According to Mark, this exercise "practically draws the lines right down the sides of your midsection as you are doing them." In addition to engaging your abs, the motion of your legs required by this exercise also works your inner and outer thighs. If you're looking to wear short shorts and bathing suits this summer, this routine is for you!
Drink Water Before Each Meal
Given the rising temps it's to be expected that you may drink more water than usual in the coming months, just make sure your H20 intake occurs before you chow down. According to a British study, sipping 16 ounces of water before each meal can lead to substantial weight loss. Researchers enlisted 84 obese adults for a three-month experiment and broke the participants into two groups. The first group was told to drink 16 ounces of water half an hour before each of their meals while. the other group was told to imagine that they were already full prior to digging in. When the study concluded, the water group lost about 9 pounds, while their imaginative peers shed approximately three fewer pounds. Scientists suspect loading up on H2O before meals is an effective weight loss strategy because it helps increase satiety. If you're less hungry when meal time rolls around, then you're more inclined to make smarter food choices.
Toss Some Berries And Nuts Into Your Oats
Studies have shown that people who eat oats for breakfast feel full longer, and whether you prefer oatmeal or overnight oats, try tossing some berries and nuts into the already protein-packed meal to make it even more nutritious. The tasty additions are both great sources of satiating fiber, which is an excellent weight loss ally, and are healthier than brown sugar of syrup, which can cause the formation of belly fat. For an added boost, sprinkle some cinnamon on top. New research suggests the comforting spice improves metabolic health by acting directly on fat cells, inducing them to start burning energy via thermogenesis.
Pair Split Lunges With Bicep Curls
Sure, summer is all about the flat belly—hello bikini season!—but why not tone some other parts of your body while you're at it? By pairing split lunges with bicep curls you'll be giving your legs, abs, and arms a workout. Mark, who advises doing this exercise with 1-liter water bottles, says, "Even though you aren't actively moving your abs, they play a huge role in keeping your spine upright during this exercise, so please make sure you keep them engaged throughout the entire movement. This one makes your entire body tremble—so get ready!"
Cut Your Sugar Intake And Increase The Amount Of Fiber You Eat
Cutting the amount of sugar you eat is one of the quickest and easiest ways to flatten your belly, especially if you replace that unhealthy added sugar with more fiber. In a review of 68 clinical trials and studies, New Zealand researchers reported in the British Medical Journal that increasing sugar intake meant increasing body weight while reducing sugar meant reducing body weight. Similarly, increasing fiber is another way to keep your belly lean. In a study of 1,114 people over five years, researchers reported that for every 10 grams of soluble fiber people ate, their belly fat accumulation was reduced by nearly 4 percent—even if they did nothing else to lose weight. Eat more soluble fiber with these overnight oats recipes!
Make Hummus Your Go-To Dip
Speaking of fiber, another great source of the satiating nutrient is hummus and vegetables. Dippable veggies such as carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli are packed with fiber and an array of other vitamins, and they pair perfectly with the creamy chickpea dip, which has 2.5 grams of fiber per ¼ cup. By skipping unhealthy cheesy dips in favor or hummus, you'll be doing your belly (and the rest of your body) a massive favor.
Experiment With Varied Cardio
With the weather getting warmer it's the perfect time to go for a walk or run, but remember to vary your speeds. Why, you ask? Research has shown it will help you shrink your belly. In an Ohio State University study reported by Biology Letters, walking at varying speeds—as opposed to a steady speed—can burn up to 20 percent more calories.
Stay Away From Stress
When you're continually stressed out, it's bad news for your belly. Stress triggers the release of a hormone called cortisol, and because cortisol is evolutionarily linked to alerting your body to external dangers (like that buffalo headed straight for you) and low blood-glucose levels, it forces your body to store fat and makes you feel hungry. In other words, if you're stressed, you'll start craving that afternoon candy bar even if your stomach is actually full. To avoid stress, try simple things like yoga, taking deep breaths and meditating for a few minutes each day.
Eat Eggs Instead Of Cereal
There's arguably nothing easier than pouring some cereal into a bowl to start your day, but loading up on Frosted Flakes in the a.m. is detrimental for your belly. Tony the Tiger's favorite cereal, while tasty, is packed with sugar and empty calories that are keeping you from having the body you want. Forgoing the Frosted flakes in favor of eggs is an easy way to change that. Since they are an excellent source of protein, eggs have the power to keep you fuller, longer. In fact, in one International Journal of Obesity study with 21 participants, half were fed a breakfast of bagels while half ate eggs. The egg group had a lower response to ghrelin (the "hunger hormone,") were less hungry three hours later, and consumed fewer calories over the course of the next day than the bagel eaters. What's more? Egg yolks contain choline, a nutrient with powerful fat-burning properties.
Work A Medicine Ball Into Your Gym Routine
Seated medicine ball twists are a great way to get a toned midsection because they target your obliques while also engaging your abdominals and lower back muscles. When doing this exercise, Mark advises people to keep their feet on the ground. "This one is all about form, so keep your feet on the ground, lean back just enough to feel an engagement in your abdominals, and make a nice full turn with your shoulders," he explains, noting you should feel that satisfying core burn in no time.
Shrinking your belly isn't just about what you put in your body, it's about what's going on in your brain, too. In a 2015 study, Brown University researchers asked nearly 400 people to complete a mindfulness-awareness survey, which asked whether subjects agreed with such questions as "I find it difficult to stay focused on what's happening in the present." Then, they X-rayed the subjects' bellies to determine their degree of belly fat. The results showed that the higher people scored on the mindfulness survey, the less visceral fat they were likely to have. People who are less mindful have, on average, an extra pound of fat inside their bellies than those who are more in tune with their everyday lives and the world around them.
Choose Greek Yogurt Over Regular Yogurt
Regular yogurts tend to be loaded with belly-bloating sugar, but that's not the case with protein-packed plain Greek yogurt. Per a study in the journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Missouri compared the satiety effects of high-, moderate-, and low-protein yogurts on women aged 24-28, and found Greek yogurt, with the highest protein content, to have the greatest effect. For a boost of flavor (and fiber!) toss some fresh berries on your yogurt and eat up!
Build More Muscle Via Strength Training
Strength training is a great way to stay in shape and build up muscle, and because muscle mass burns more calories than fat (every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself), the more muscle on your skeleton, the quicker you will lose the fat throughout your body, especially around your abdomen. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you'll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year, and be even closer to obtaining that lean physique you've always wanted. A simple way to build up muscle via strength training is to do push-ups or planks.
Know Your Go-To Foods
As it turns out, there's something to be said for being a creature of habit and eating the same foods day in and day out, especially if you're on a mission to shrink your belly. When University of Texas researchers looked at the diets of 6,814 people, they found that the more diverse one's diet, the more likely one was to experience weight gain. In fact, those who ate the widest range of foods showed a 120 percent greater increase in waist circumference compared with those who had the least diversity.
Embrace Meatless Monday
Starting a Meatless Monday tradition is a great way to drop a few pounds because it increases your intake of fiber and a host of other nutrients. Numerous studies have shown that those who eat the least amount of meat are less likely to be obese, have lower BMIs, and the lowest body fat levels. Though it's perfectly fine to eat meat a few times a week, these high-protein foods tend to fill you up before you can work your way over to the veggies, which are known to possess fat-fighting, waist-trimming powers, so try spotlighting just greens and healthy grains a few times a month.
Try High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training (or HIIT) is a great belly-blasting option for those who already feel comfortable in the gym because it helps you drop fatty tissue and build muscle simultaneously. "High-intensity interval training is when you perform an exercise at or close to your maximum ability for a short period of time and then take a brief respite and do it again. HIIT should usually be done on a 2:1 interval, meaning if you did an exercise for one minute, you rest for 30 seconds and then repeat," explains Dr. Alex Tauberg, DC, CSCS, EMR. To use HIIT to shrink your belly, do workouts that engage your core such as abdominal crunches or bridges. "By performing core workouts using a HIIT plan, you can burn calories and build muscle at the same time," Alex adds. "This can be a great way to flatten that stomach when you don't have too much time to work out."
Ditch Artificial Sweeteners
Simply put, artificial sweeteners cause belly fat. A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that increasing diet soda intake is directly linked to greater abdominal obesity. In the study of older adults, researchers found those who drank diet soda each day experienced more than triple the increase in waist size over the course of nine years, so put down the Diet Coke and don't even think about reaching for some Equal to put in your morning coffee.
Add Apple Cider Vinegar To Salad Dressings
According to a study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, & Biochemistry, consuming apple cider vinegar each day can lead to weight loss, reduced belly fat, waist circumference, and lower blood triglycerides. More specifically, the study of obese Japanese participants found that those who consumed 1 tablespoon of ACV over a three month period lost 2.6 pounds, and those who consumed 2 tablespoons lost 3.7 pounds in the same time frame. Toss a spoonful of ACV into a homemade salad dressing or smoothie and watch the weight melt off!
Hop On A Trampoline
Sure, trampolines are built for kids, but as an adult using one for rebounding is a great way to flatten your tummy. "Not only is it a great cardio workout (which is the first step to tightening up your midsection) but it makes your core work like crazy so you are getting the cardio plus the toning," explains Hope Pedraza, a Certified Personal Trainer through American College of Sports Medicine "Everything you need for a tight tummy!" To get a comprehensive workout using a mini trampoline, Hope suggests jumping, lifting your knees up high, twisting, adding some light weights to move around while you're jumping, and moving in all directions in different planes.
Ditch The Refined Grains
When it comes to grains, whole is the way to go. Why, you ask? Because unlike the refined stuff—white rice, white pasta, and white flour—which is stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process, whole grains are packed with satiating, heart-healthy fiber and they won't negatively affect your blood sugar or weight the way their whiter counterparts do. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that substituting whole grains for refined grains in the diet increases calorie loss by reducing calories retained during digestion and speeding up metabolism. So if you're on a quest to lose weight, ditch the white stuff and stock up on whole grains such as buckwheat, brown rice, and quinoa
Add Some Almonds To Your Salad
The next time you're making a salad or eating some yogurt, add some almonds to the dish. Not only will the nuts add a nice crunch to your food, but their high protein and fiber content makes them ideal for weight loss. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that consuming 1.5 ounces of almonds daily (as opposed to a carb dense muffin) along with a heart-healthy diet, helped to improve cholesterol and lipid profiles among the research participants. The study also found that eating almonds reduces belly fat, too.
Do Squats With A Bicycle Crunch
What's better than squats if you're looking to get a flat belly? Pairing those squats with a bicycle crunch. This combo is one of Mark's favorites because of all the different muscle groups it targets. "This compound movement not only hits your legs, but also works lower abdominals, upper abdominals, and obliques—all in one fun move!" he explains. Do a handful of sets a few times a week to start seeing results.
Let Your Healthy Belly Bacteria Thrive
There are healthy belly bacteria, and then there are bad belly bacteria, the later of which studies indicate overweight people have more of in their gut. To keep the fat-causing bugs at bay, you need to eat a variety of foods that support their healthy counterparts—the kind found in the bellies of slim people. Examples of probiotic-rich foods that help you lose weight by aiding digestion include kefir, kombucha, and yogurt.
Add Beans To Your Meals
Beans can help boost feelings of fullness and manage blood sugar levels, making them an excellent ally in your weight loss battle. In fact, a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils could contribute to modest weight loss. And if you need another reason to bulk up on beans, remember that the fiber and protein-rich legumes are an excellent source of genistein—the same compound found in peanuts and lentils that aids weight loss. To up your bean intake, toss some of 'em in a soup or salad and eat up!
"Dance cardio really is an amazing way to trim belly fat because it is going to help shed fat on the body as a whole. It is obviously a cardio workout, but because your body is forced to move in all different directions in different planes, it is making every single muscle in your body work. Similar to the benefits of a HIIT workout, you get the cardio plus toning benefit all in one," Hope explains. So try a dance-centric class at your gym or turn up your iPod and bust some moves at home.
Munching on the right snacks throughout the day is one of the best ways to shrink your waistline. Need proof? According to a recent study, researchers found participants lost significantly more body weight when they incorporated low-sugar, high-protein snacks into their daily food routine. Fitting in healthy, high protein snacks (such as a handful of unsalted almonds) helps to maintain blood-sugar levels—which keeps your brain from triggering hunger pangs—and stops your body from indulging in unhealthy foods after what feels like a long day of starvation.
Use Avocado Instead Of Mayo On A Sandwich
A dry sandwich is no good, but neither is one smothered in high-calorie mayo. Swap the popular condiment for avocado instead and help blast fat. Just half of an avocado contains 4.6 grams of belly-filling fiber, and its satiating powers are so potent that a study in the Nutrition Journal discovered that folks who added half a fresh avocado to their meal reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterward.
And unlike mayo, which is basically void of nutrients, avocados contain metabolism-enhancing monounsaturated fats that have been shown to reduce hunger, and unsaturated fats, which seem to prevent the storage of belly fat. For more ways to blast your belly fat, take a look at ways to lose your belly in 10 days!