Having a flat belly looks like a distant dream to many of us, especially after spending hours at the gym, depriving ourselves from our favorite foods, and getting virtually no results. Our internet histories are just a list of ‘flat belly hacks’ that never seem to work. After getting tired of similar experiences, I decided to go into the science of getting lean, and find out what I am doing wrong.
The first step to getting a flat is belly is to understand exercise alone will not help you. It has been said a million times in the past, and I will say it again, bodies are built inside the kitchen, not inside the gym. That means, while getting a healthy amount of exercise is important, it is much more important to follow a strict diet plan. Both things, when combined with consistency, deliver amazing results. But the catch is, you already knew that, read further to find out what you are missing:
When to Eat
Yes, the timing of your meals is like the hidden terms and conditions behind the ‘getting slim’ plan. As important as it is to watch the calories you consume (more on this in a while), it is also important to understand when to eat. Below are two diet schedules, you can follow the one that suits your lifestyle:
- The first one is called intermittent dieting, and it works on a theory that says that the body has defined ‘calorie intake’ and ‘calorie burning’ hours. Keeping that in mind, you have to choose an 8 hour window in which you can consume your calories. Doing this would give the body a 16 hours fasting window where the metabolism works on stripping the fat molecules. This, however does not mean that you can eat a full chocolate cake in the 8 hour window, it is important to keep a balanced diet for this to work.
- The second diet plan is one that is very commonly used among bodybuilders and aesthetic models. The idea is simple, instead of eating three large meals, break down your food into small portions that you consume at two hour intervals throughout the day. The idea is to keep your stomach half filled throughout the day to suppress cravings and control calorie intake.
Kill the Sugar
This is one of the most effective ways to lose stubborn belly fat. Cutting out sugars is crucial because both sugar or glucose molecules and fat molecules store energy. The only difference is that the sugar molecules are processed faster, while fat molecules are slower burning fuel. When you cut out sugar from your diet, you are essentially forcing the body to burn the fat inside the body as energy fuel.
There is only one catch to this, when you first eliminate sugar from your daily diet, you will feel energy-deprived. While this only lasts a few days, it is always helpful to consume natural sugars through fruits and nuts. Doing so will ensure your energy levels don’t drop and will help your body to switch to fat burning from sugar burning with ease. Additionally, supplements like Forskolin help enhance the body’s metabolic rate naturally, effectively solving the energy deficiency problem and aiding in fat loss.
No, not a typing error, you will need to consume fats, good fats, something called monounsaturated fats. Commonly found in plant-based oils like sesame oil, olive oil, canola oil among others, these are necessary for the body because:
- Switching to monounsaturated fats (good fat) from trans fat and polyunsaturated fats (bad fat) will help strengthen the metabolism and burn fat more efficiently.
- Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) reduce cholesterol levels inside the body, this is very positive for heart health.
- Replacing bad fats and carbohydrates with MUFAs results in more efficient burning of belly fat.
As true for everything else, have everything in moderation. As they say, excess of everything is bad.
Eat More Fibers
Eating more fiber will help moderate insulin levels inside the body and keep your body’s fat burning abilities at peak. There are two different types of fibres you need to consume:
- Soluble Fibers– As the name suggests these are fibers that are soluble in water. The interesting thing however, happens in your gut when you consume soluble fibres. There are a about 100 trillion small bacteria living in your large intestine. The human body itself is incapable of digesting soluble fibers but the bacteria present in the large intestine digest these fibers to produce energy. This helps you cut down on the consumption of fats and calories to fulfill your body’s energy needs. Soluble fibers can be found in food items like oatmeal, berries, flax seeds, and vegetables like brussel sprouts, turnips, and sweet potatoes.
- Resistant starch– While it is usually advised to avoid starch when trying to lose inches, resistant starch works similar to soluble fibres. The resistant starch molecules resist digestion, letting the bacteria in your stomach do all the legwork while your body enjoys the energy coming from the digestion of this starch. Potatoes, grains and many other daily food products are rich in resistant starch.
There is one golden rule to effective weight/fat loss, to be in a calorie deficit. That simply means, the amount of calories entering the body is lower than the amount of calories being used up by the body.
While having a strict diet plan surely has no alternative, you need to burn the calories you already have, and the calories that the healthy diet will add to your body. There is no shortcut to doing this but to exercise regularly. Any form of exercise will show results, as long as you remain consistent, whether it is just walking for 20 minutes, going for a short jog, or doing yoga. There are just two rules, you need to do enough workout to:
- Break a sweat.
- Sweat enough that you need a shower.
If you are doing enough exercise to fulfill the above conditions, and following a strict diet, you will see the difference eventually.
There is, however, a faster way to burn fat, it has been discussed in the next section.
HIIT & Compound lifts
For those who thought this was going to be something not related to dieting or exercising, I am sorry to disappoint you, but there is no way around that.
Most of us have been told to do as much cardio as we can in order to lose fat. While it sure is an effective way to burn some calories, scientists recently found a more efficient process to do the same- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The basic principle on which the training program works is to have longer intervals of ‘work’ time where you run (or exercise) like a bat out of a cave, followed by short intervals of ‘rest’ time when you catch your breath before the next slot of ‘work’ time begins. The best part about this kind of training is that it is not time consuming and a twenty minute HIIT session will burn much more calories that a 20 minute run.
To add to the effectiveness of HIIT, combine it with 30 minutes of compound lifts. These are exercises that attack multiple muscle groups at once. Exercises like the deadlift, benchpress and squats are some of the most common examples of compound exercises. If you do not want to go to the gym, you can do compound exercises at home as well. Bodyweight exercises like dips, push ups, chin ups, burpees are all very effective when it comes to stripping fat and packing lean, high quality muscle. Men can add testosterone boosting supplements to their daily regimen to supplement their body with more energy, strength and to aid the fat burning capabilities of the body.
Bonus tip- Cheat Days
This is a special one as it has worked wonders for me. Instead of having a diet plan that I loathe, I prefer to have one cheat day where I can eat my favorite food without guilt, after following my diet plan for six days. For me, this day is Saturday.
I suggest having a cheat day because it will prevent you from spiralling back into the bad eating habits that made you fat in the first place. Not to mention, this way you will enjoy, and cherish your favorite food much more.
To wrap up, I would like to remind everyone that there are absolutely no shortcuts to getting a flat belly. However, there are ways that can accelerate the process by a significant margin. Most of these ways have been mentioned above. I hope that this makes a positive difference in your life, and if you know of any more such fat loss tricks, do share them in the comments below!