Belly fat—also known as visceral fat—isn't just uncomfortable and unattractive; it's dangerous. This type of fat lies deep within the abdomen and can impair the function of crucial organs like the liver and pancreas. It's associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The good news: If you're carrying too much fat around your middle, there are simple steps you can take to reduce it. Here are five ways to lose a pound of belly fat. You can easily start today. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Stop Drinking Liquid Sugar
Liquid calories are a major contributor to visceral fat, even the drinks you might think are healthy. Sodas, juices, nut milks, energy drinks—anything which is sugar-sweetened can pack on belly fat. Liquid sugar seems to accelerate the development of belly fat "by being quickly absorbed, spiking blood sugar, spiking insulin," says Dr. Mark Hyman, a functional medicine physician with the Cleveland Clinic. Cutting these out can help you lose dangerous belly fat.
Reach for Some Weights
Exercise is key to losing belly fat—you need to burn more calories than you consume. Any type of activity can help, but you'll burn fat faster if you don't skip the weights. A 2021 review of studies found that resistance training effectively reduces belly fat in healthy adults. Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. More is better—studies have found that increasing your exercise to 60 minutes a day can burn up to 30% of your belly fat over three months.
Reduce Refined Grains
Simple carbs—those found in processed foods and refined grains—are as bad as added sugar when it comes to the production of belly fat. These foods cause blood sugar to rise precipitously. "When you raise your blood sugar, you raise insulin. You raise insulin, you sweep all the fuel out of your bloodstream and throw it into your belly-fat cells," says Hyman. Swap refined grains and processed foods for a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
Go to Sleep Earlier
In a study published last June in JAMA Network Open, researchers found that people who went to bed after 10pm had a 20% higher risk of being obese or having a large waistline. In people whose regular bedtimes were between 2 and 6am, the risk was almost double. Scientists think late bedtimes might increase the production of stress hormones, which tell the body to hang on to belly fat.
Cut Down on Alcohol
According to a recent study published in the journal Obesity Science&Practice, people who drink more beer and spirits tend to have higher levels of visceral fat. (Conversely, people who drank wine instead had lower levels of visceral fat.) "Beer/spirits may partially contribute to the 'empty calorie' hypothesis related to adipogenesis [fat formation]," the researchers wrote. To cut down on belly fat and maintain good overall health, experts advise avoiding alcohol or drinking only in moderation: meaning two drinks a day for men, or one drink a day for women.
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