Here's the scenario: After logging countless hours at the gym and watching your diet for months, you still have quite a bit of stubborn belly fat. To say you're feeling frustrated would be the understatement of the year but don't throw in the towel quite yet. Though getting a flat stomach can help you feel more confident in a bathing suit, shedding the fat around your gut is important for your health, too. Visceral fat, the type of flab that surrounds your organs and midsection, can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and is a predictor of heart disease, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance and certain types of cancer.
Read on to find out six possible reasons why your stubborn belly fat won't budge. Plus, how to counteract each issue.
You're not eating enough soluble fiber.
When it comes to weight loss nutrients, it's no secret that fiber is a shining star. Not only does it keep us "regular" but it's also a powerful hunger zapper. Though both soluble and insoluble fiber are important for health, soluble fiber reigns supreme when it comes to stripping away stubborn belly fat. It turns into a gel-like substance during digestion by attracting water, which helps you feel fuller, longer. In fact, increasing daily soluble fiber intake by just 10 grams reduced visceral fat by 3.7 percent over five years among Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center study participants. If you have a 30-inch waist, that's the equivalent of losing 1.1 inches!
To hit the nutritional mark, eat two small apples or a half-cup of pinto beans daily. While apples make great on-the-go snacks, beans are easy to throw into just about any salad, stir-fry, or pasta dish. For best results, squeeze in a challenging 30-minute workout two to four times a week, as the study participants did.
You're addicted to sugary (and diet) drinks.
These days, drinking a can of cola—whether it's diet or regular—is a bit taboo. Even so, if you love sipping the stuff, it's a hard habit to shake—and one that can leave your once-toned stomach covered in fat. Regular soda and fructose-filled juice have been associated with increased waist size and abdominal fat while diet soda has been shown to increased waist size, BMI, and total percentage of body fat, according to a study published in the journal Obesity.
If you can't possibly down another glass of H20, sip white tea instead of reaching for a sugary drink or diet cola. This mild brew blocks the formation of new fat cells and helps the body break down stored fat, according to a Nutrition and Metabolism study.
Here are the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are.
You're doing the wrong workout.
While a long jog or spin class is great for your heart, cardio workouts alone won't do much to burn fat around your middle. To get rid of stubborn belly fat, you'll also need to work in some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprints. Sprint training has been proven to help people lose inches from their waist and hips, while high-intensity exercise has been shown to fry more abdominal fat than low-intensity exercise, according to Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise findings.
The faster you go during your sprints and the shorter your recovery, the more fat you'll burn. To complete a sprint workout, set the treadmill to a challenging speed—typically at least two miles per hour faster than your distance running speed. Sprint for a solid 30-seconds. Then, slow the belt and recover for 30-60 seconds. Repeat this pattern until you've hit the 20-minute mark. As for the interval training, try a circuit made up of bodyweight exercises like pushups, burpees, alternating lunges, and mountain climbers (feel free to swap in your favorites). Do 10 reps each of three exercises, followed by a minute of jumping jacks. Rest for one minute, and repeat this circuit four more times.
You're getting older.
You may be older and wiser, but unfortunately, you're probably also a bit paunchier—even if you work out and eat smart. Thanks to the bone and muscle loss that comes with age, your metabolism moves more slowly, making it more far more challenging to keep your belly flat and toned.
Steer clear of processed food. As we age, insulin production is more sensitive to sugar-and-salt-filled processed food, so our bodies are more likely to store those calories as fat. What's more, processed foods can cause inflammation, which makes it harder to shed unwanted stubborn belly fat. Stick with healthy, clean foods to keep your metabolism humming.
To the outside world, it may seem like you have everything under control—but your body can't be fooled. Even if you work well under pressure, your body will still pump out cortisol, a stress hormone that enlarges fat cells and increases appetite and fat storage, especially around the middle. To make matters worse, the types of food we crave when we're stressed out tend to be fat- and sugar-laden treats like cookies and ice cream.
If you really can't steer clear of the freezer next time your stress levels go through the roof, at least opt for the best ice creams for weight loss. Or, better yet, brew a pot of black tea instead of reaching for that spoon. According to researchers, the beverage can increase the rate at which your body brings its cortisol levels back to normal, which can help your body fight off belly flab. While you're waiting for the water to boil, fire up YouTube and search for some funny videos. Research shows that smiling and laughing helps lower stress levels.
You're eating the wrong red meat.
While lean, grass-fed meat can help you lose weight, fatty cuts of meat like Ribeye, T-bone and New York Strip can have the opposite effect, according to Chinese researchers. Their findings show that a diet rich in fatty, fresh red meat is positively associated with abdominal obesity and larger waist circumference.
Ask the butcher for grass-fed sirloin tip side steak, top round or eye of round steak. They're among the leanest picks you can find and filled with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce waist-widening inflammation.
Here are 36 Things to Do Today for a Flat Belly.