It’s not just about looking fit and slim, getting a flatter tummy is healthier for you and could save your life. Having fat around the midline (even if you’re not obese or grossly overweight) can pose serious health risks increasing your chance of developing diabetes, certain forms of cancer, and cardiac disease. So, losing the belly bulge, the muffin top, the beer belly isn’t just a vanity issue!
So why is belly fat dangerous? The body fat just underneath your skin, the kind you can grab and squeeze, is called subcutaneous fat. In the belly, it’s called visceral fat because it builds up in the spaces in between and around your viscera which includes internal organs like your stomach and intestines.
Visceral fat produces toxins that affect the proper functioning of your body.
One of the many toxins is called cytokines, which not only increase your chance of getting heart disease but also make your body less sensitive to insulin which can make you diabetic. Cytokines are particularly nasty because they also cause inflammation in the body which can trigger certain cancers like colon, esophagus and pancreatic cancer.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel because there are effective and achievable ways to get rid of belly fat, and anyone can flatten their tummy through the right diet, proper exercise, natural supplements and getting enough sleep.
Natural Supplements For A Flatter Tummy
Once again we emphasize that any natural supplement taken to lose weight is exactly that – supplementary to a healthy, balanced diet and a regular exercise routine. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements for weight loss or lean muscle as they may interact with any prescription medications.
Green Tea contains caffeine and polyphenols that speed up your metabolism, helping your body burn calories faster. The antioxidants in green tea also break down an enzyme called norepinephrine, which further stimulates the nervous system to burn fat, among other health benefits.
The recommendation is to drink 2-3 cups per day for a total of 240 to 320 mg polyphenols or 100 to 750 mg per day of standardized green tea extract is recommended for weight loss. Green tea is a stimulant so don’t drink it later than 3pm!
Green tea is included in many fat burners and pills for belly fat. Check out our guide to the best pills to get ripped.
This comes in different forms, from capsules to powder, and traps certain toxins or chemicals and prevents their absorption in the gastrointestinal tract through its tiny pores. Activated charcoal has become something of an urban legend as a weight-loss supplement in belly fat pills and as a detox aid as research studies are inconclusive and there is no data to support this. But it does help with that belly bloat and flatulence.
People on prescription medicine need to be aware that if they do take activated charcoal, it may prevent or change the way your body absorbs the medication and may change the effectiveness of your treatment, so chat to your health practitioner first.
Caraway seeds are fiber-filed and packed with antioxidants and have long been known for their weight loss properties, ability to stabilize blood sugar and for supporting digestive health. In North Africa, Western Asia and Europe these flavorful seeds have been used in cooking for centuries. In Germany, caraway is added to aid the digestion of everything from sauerkraut to potato dishes, onion tarts, and, of course, bread.
Just one tablespoon supplies 2.5 grams of fiber, but because they have quite a potent flavor, we recommend adding only a teaspoon to your favorite soup, vegetable dish, curry or salad.
For a caraway tea – add one tablespoon of caraway seeds to 12 ounces of water (about one and a half cups). Put the water into a small saucepan. Place the caraway seeds in the water. Bring the water to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for about ten minutes. Then remove from heat. For a stronger infusion, once it’s done simmering, remove it from the heat then cover your saucepan and allow the tea to sit for a while to brew.
Fennel seeds are yet another amazing natural supplement for weight loss and a potent antioxidant. Fennel (or Saunf) speeds up metabolism, aids in digestion and helps the absorption of nutrients, thereby acting as an appetite suppressant. In India, they are used for culinary purposes, and to freshen the breath and cleanse the palate after eating. But these aromatic little seeds are also pretty effective in helping cure water retention, especially for the women suffering from PMS. Infused fennel water is a therapy to cleanse the gut and helps people suffering from chronic constipation.
A tablespoon of fennel seeds gives you about 2 grams of fiber. When making a fennel tea, use only a teaspoon, crush or grind the seeds before adding to your tea (or cooking) as this helps to release more of the oil and flavor.
Fennel is also available in capsule form. Remember the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber is up to 25–30 grams.
Many of us already know probiotics are great for irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal infections and other tummy troubles like bloating and constipation because they help maintain the good bacteria (intestinal flora) in the gut. They have also shown to be effective in boosting the immune system. But the question as to when it comes to how to flatten your stomach, research into probiotics for aid weight loss remains inconclusive.
There is one promising study that showed a link between probiotics and weight loss but it was restricted to one probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus. All of the people who took part in the study were obese.
Probiotics are available as supplements or you can eat the following foods that contain them naturally: kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, sourdough and some cheeses.
Magnesium is a mineral naturally occurring in our bodies – in fact about 60% of the magnesium in your body is in the bones, while the rest is in muscles, soft tissues and fluids, including the blood. In fact, every cell in your body contains it and needs it to function (magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, all of which are necessary for optimal health).
It turns out magnesium is important for weight loss too because it aids digestion, absorption of nutrients and assists insulin to guide glucose into cells to be used as energy. Without sufficient magnesium, this process is ineffective and the glucose is stored as fat which means insulin levels rise, increasing the risk of diabetes.
Ensure you eat foods high in magnesium like almonds, cashews and spinach, or ask your doctor about a suitable supplement. Magnesium can be taken any time of day, though some people prefer to take it at night before bed as it has anti-inflammatory and for muscle repair.
Celery Juice is the “new” green juice that’s being hailed as a miracle juice (according to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop site), because of its nutritional value – celeries contain Vitamin A; Vitamin C; Vitamin K; folate, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, electrolytes, water and smaller amounts of other vitamins and minerals.
But it’s been trending as a weight loss supplement too, and while we think switching from high sugar fruit juices and smoothies to celery juice will no doubt be better for your weight, there is no scientific evidence that links drinking celery juice directly to fat loss. Also the downside of juicing celery is that you remove the fiber, and fiber is what helps your digestive system function properly, keeps you full and balances blood sugar levels which ultimately help you control your weight.
We say give celery juice a try, but consider good old fashioned celery sticks as a healthy snack in between meals – dip into hummus or tahini for a little flavor or spread a little zero salt-zero-sugar peanut butter on it.
Getting a flatter tummy is totally achievable, so have fun exercising, enjoy delicious healthy food, and take supplements only when necessary, knowing there is no silver bullet to beating the flab. It’s all about being consistent and persistent.
Effective Ways To Achieve A Flat Stomach
Good Nutrition (and LOTS of water)
If you want a flatter tummy, exercise alone is not going to cut it, diet is everything. It’s important to state that you need to eat a balanced diet, NEVER under eat. Too few calories can cause your body to slow its metabolic rate which could cause you to pack on weight rather than lose it. Your body will sense that food is scarce and lowers the rate at which it burns calories. By eating too little you also risk slowing your metabolic rate permanently. So rather eat smaller meals regularly to stave off hunger, keep your metabolism in check and avoid bingeing later on.
You need to get all your macronutrients in and these include:
- Healthy carbs
- Healthy fat
- Lean protein
Carbs have been vilified over the years by many “trending” diets, but natural carbs are essential for weight loss and wellness as they are a good source of dietary fiber. This keeps our blood sugar levels in check and keeps hunger at bay because it creates satiety in the body (feeling of fullness).
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45%-60% of our daily calories are made up of these good carbs.
For weight loss aim to eat mainly green vegetables (broccoli, kale and spinach), raw carrots, any fruit is fine but eat in moderation as fruit contains fructose (a sugar), kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, bran and oats.
It may seem counterintuitive but healthy fats play a vital role in helping us lose weight and maintain a slim waistline as they support our metabolism, our immunity, aid tissue repair, hormone production, cell signaling, reduce inflammation, help brain function and promote the absorption of many nutrients. And if all of those benefits weren’t enough, healthy fats taste great and make us feel fuller for longer.
Here are the top healthy fats to include in your diet: avocado, salmon, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, organic eggs, almonds and walnuts.
Proteins are crucial to weight loss as a diet high in protein may increase your metabolic rate and reduce your appetite. Protein also helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss. Aim to get 20–30% of your calories from protein on a daily basis, this can be included in every meal.
Remember you don’t have to eat meat to get protein as there are so many plant-based protein foods like soy, tofu, tempeh, edamame, beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, oats, wild rice and of course veggies that contain the most protein: broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Other good sources of protein include organic chicken, grilled fish, organic eggs and you can include a protein powder shake in your day that suits your body and exercise regime.
Hydration with water is a guaranteed weight-loss elixir because it’s a natural appetite suppressant, it removes waste from the body and studies have shown that drinking plenty of water increases calorie burning. The recommendation for weight loss is to drink 2-3 gallons of water a day.
Lastly, don’t drink alcohol. Chef and nutritionist Diane Henderiks says “the liver processes alcohol before other carbs and protein, and the sheer presence of alcohol in the body slows fat-burning”. Rather stick to nature’s gift to us: water.
Exercise For A Flat Belly
In combination with a healthy, balanced diet, you’ll need to get into a disciplined exercise routine if you’re serious about achieving a flat stomach. Don’t see exercise as a chore, rather make it fun, train to your favorite music and remember exercise prompts your body to release endorphins, natural chemicals in your body that make you happy.
Morning cardio (aerobic exercise) is important – so go for a run, hop on your bike, go swimming, do whatever gets your heart racing. Aim to do your cardio workout (even if it’s a different exercise) twice a day for improved heart health, better sleep and improved mood.
Try fasted cardio – training on an empty stomach – as you’ll burn fat faster.
The reason? Six hours after eating you enter the fasted state and glucagon is released to keep your blood sugar at normal levels. Your body starts to break down adipose (fat) tissue into free fatty acids, which can then be converted into a form of energy known as ketone bodies. In layman’s terms, you’re burning fat for energy. This can lead to rapid weight loss. As with everything when taking on a fitness and diet regimen, you have to see what works for your body.
Fasted cardio is not for everyone as some people need the fuel to feel energized to perform.
Another effective way to lose weight, cut fat and get ripped is to do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which means working out at 90% of your maximum capacity. This trains your body to work in an anaerobic mode through short but intense bursts of exercise like sprints (running or cycling), jumping rope, weight lifting, and isometric exercises.
Anaerobic exercise requires more energy than aerobic exercise, so to produce more energy, your body uses its anaerobic system, which relies on energy sources stored in your muscles. In addition to helping your body manage lactic acid more efficiently, anaerobic exercise has been shown to help you maintain a healthy weight that aids in helping you get toned.
Sleep and Lower Your Cortisol
The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. Sleep is critical for our mental and physical wellbeing and a lack of it reduces the benefits of dieting (by up to 55%), according to a study published October 5, 2010, in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study found that dieters who cut back on their sleep produced higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger and reduces energy expenditure.
Sleep also reduces cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone released when we are in stressful situations (flight or fight). However, our society has conditioned us to be continually stressed and so many of us live with constantly elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol results in us gaining belly fat as it raises our blood sugar levels which then raises insulin – the fat storage hormone.
It’s clear what you need to do: count to ten in a stressful situation. Breathe. Don’t let stress, anger or anxiety take over, everything can be solved. Just like the power is in your hands to exercise and eat well, only you have the ability to manage your stress and how you react to stressful situations. And get 7-10 hours of sleep. If you do have trouble sleeping, it may be time to see an expert. Lay off the caffeine after 3pm; ban screens before bed – rather read a book; don’t eat too late or have a big meal at night; and of course the obvious one – no alcohol. Do not take sleeping tablets as these have shocking side effects.