Drinking Habits To Help You Shrink Abdominal Fat, Say Dietitians
When it comes to the fat around your abdominal area, not all of it is weighted equally. While the kind you can pinch with your fingers may make your clothes fit differently, it's not anywhere near as harmful as the type that's deeper and less visible. Known as visceral fat, this specific type of fat is actually very dangerous for your health. Fortunately, while losing weight in this area is a gradual, steady process, a good place to start is with your nutrition. There are even certain drinking habits you can implement to help shrink abdominal fat if you need.
Unlike subcutaneous fat—the kind that can accumulate around your arms, hips, and thighs—visceral fat is located deeper within your belly and sits around your abdominal organs, and it can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, certain cancers, and other serious conditions. Visceral fat has also been linked to high cholesterol and insulin resistance. Not only that, but studies have shown that even people within a normal weight range are at a higher risk of health issues if they have excess visceral fat.
But, here's the good news: There's something you can do about abdominal fat, starting with changing your eating and drinking habits in small, but significant, ways. Read on for some dietitian-approved drinking habits that can help you shrink that stubborn belly fat and start feeling healthier. Then, make sure to check out The Worst Sweeteners for Abdominal Fat.
Limit the cocktails.
Time and time again, studies have shown that overdoing it on alcohol can contribute to belly fat. In fact, one study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that men who had more than three drinks a day were more likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who drank very little or in moderation. According to the CDC's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking means no more than one drink per day for women nd two per day for men.
Not only do beer, wine, and liquor pack a lot of calories with almost no nutrients, according to Blanca Garcia, RD, the body also essentially treats alcohol as fat, which means it converts the sugars from alcohol into fatty acids. Plus, studies have shown that drinking alcohol can increase your appetite, potentially leading you to eat more.
Another study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found that the more drinks you have per day, the more abdominal fat you're likely to have. For instance, participants who had less than one drink per day had less abdominal fat than those who had four drinks or more. This is why Garcia strongly suggests cutting back on alcohol when you can.
Swap juice for homemade smoothies.
Fruit juice may seem like a healthy choice, but unfortunately, many of the products available on your local grocery store's shelves are sweetened with added sugars. And, a 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology revealed that when you consume too much sugar, the excess is converted into fat and stored in your body—often as visceral fat around the abdominal area.
Another added benefit of eating the whole fruit rather than drinking a fruit juice is because oftentimes, the fiber and other nutrients are removed from the fruit in the juicing process, and fiber is crucial in the loss of belly fat. According to a study in Obesity, for every 10-gram increase in participants' soluble fiber intake, their belly fat decreased by 3.7% over a span of five years. Another study, published in Microbial Endocrinology, found that fiber can help reduce your hunger hormone levels, which may help you better control your calorie intake.
Because of these points, Garcia advises opting for drinks that are as close to the whole fruit as possible—such as blending your own smoothie at home rather than buying bottled juice. Consider adding berries, oranges, kale, carrots, flax seeds, chia seeds, or avocado to boost the fiber content of your homemade blend.
Add unsweetened green tea to your daily routine.
Unsweetened tea is one of the best beverage choices you can make when you want something a little more flavorful than water, says Lisa Young, RD, Ph.D., author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and a member of our Medical Expert Board. Specifically, you may want to go for green tea, because it contains a powerful metabolism-boosting duo: caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin.
One study in Obesity revealed that subjects who drank catechin-rich green tea daily lost more visceral fat over the course of 12 weeks than those in the control group. Just remember, sweetening your green tea may compromise its visceral fat-blasting benefits, so consider enhancing the flavor with calorie-free fruits and herbs, like lemon juice, mint leaves, or ginger root.
Drink your protein.
Another drinking habit to help you shrink abdominal fat is making sure you're adding protein to a daily beverage of choice.
"Increasing protein intake stimulates the release of the fullness hormone, which suppresses hunger and promotes satiety," explains Shafaq Bushra, RD, MS, with Marham. "Additionally, protein helps you maintain muscle mass while losing weight by increasing your metabolic rate."
In fact, a study in Nutrition & Metabolism found that people who consume more protein often have less abdominal fat. And while you can certainly make yourself a delicious protein shake to get your boost of this nutrient, these drinks aren't the only way. You can also amp up the protein content in a homemade smoothie by adding Greek yogurt, oats, almond butter, or hemp seeds, or give your morning cup of java a protein boost with skim or soy milk.
Sip on probiotic-rich beverages.
You may already know that probiotics help keep your digestive system in tip-top shape—but were you aware that these friendly bacteria may also play a role in your body composition? Research has suggested that specific types of bacteria may not only affect weight loss and maintenance, but also help shrink abdominal fat.
This bacteria can be found in a number of fermented foods and drinks, including yogurt (which can be added to smoothies) and kefir—which is essentially a drinkable yogurt. Whenever buying these products, always look for the words "live and active cultures" on the label to make sure they still have plenty of health-promoting probiotics.
A previous version of this story was published on February 2, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links.
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