When you eat more calories than you burn, you create a calorie surplus and your body is forced to store that extra energy as body fat (or build muscle if you're involved in a strength training routine). Where your body stores extra body fat is determined by genetics and out of your control. When you burn body fat for energy, you don't get to decide where that fat comes from (spot reducing). All you can do is combine a calorie restricted diet with exercise to force your body to burn fat from all over and everything, including your gut, will become toned.
Getting rid of your gut requires that you create a calorie deficit, meaning that you must burn more calories than you eat. If you burn 2,500 calories in a day and eat 2,000, that 500 calorie difference is made up largely from body fat stores. Since you can't spot reduce, the only way to get rid of a gut is to burn fat from all over.
1. Create a Calorie Deficit. The most important rule when burning body fat is to create a calorie deficit. You can create a calorie deficit by first figuring out how many calories you burn each day. Use the calorie calculator for help. Next, you need to track your calorie intake and ensure that you're eating less than you burn. At first this may seem like a lot of work but this is the only way to burn off the excess fat around your gut. Over time, this process will become easier as you incorporate it into your daily life.
2. Eat Less Sugar. Sugar is digested very quickly. This quick digestion leads to a big influx of energy that will get stored as fat (possibly in your gut) if it isn't burned off right away. Stay away from foods whose main ingredients are high fructose corn syrup, white flour and sugar (white bread, white pasta, candy, cookies, soda, fruit juices, chocolate bars, doughnuts).
3. Eat More Fiber. Unlike sugar, fiber slows down the digestion process and causes a slower release of energy. This slow energy release allows you to use that energy over a longer period of time without worrying about fat storage. Foods high in fiber include those made from 100% whole wheat flour (bread and pasta), vegetables, brown rice, oats and beans. Foods high in fiber will keep you full for longer which will help you decrease your daily calorie intake.
4. Cardio. Cardiovascular exercise will burn a large amount of energy which will help you create a bigger calorie deficit. Once you've created a calorie deficit, your body will be forced to start burning up some of its fat stores for energy which will eventually cause a decrease in your body fat percentage and lead to a smaller gut. Good examples of cardio include running, biking, swimming, playing most sports and circuit training.
5. Weightlifting. Weightlifing and strength training are thought of routines reserved only for those who want to gain weight. If you follow this myth, you won't lose your gut anytime soon. Building even a little extra muscle tissue will help in two ways. First, the extra exercise will help you burn more calories which will increase the size of your calorie deficit and second, building muscle tissue will help you speed up your metabolism. Muscle tissue is high maintenance Unlike fat, your body consumes energy just to keep the muscle tissue alive. Gaining a few pounds of muscle will help you burn more calories throughout the day helping you lose more weight.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line of losing a gut is that you have to force your body to start using fat stores for energy. The only way to do this is by creating a calorie deficit by eating less and exercising more. Don't skip out on strength training, it will help you lose weight. You also need to concentrate on eating healthy foods which will make it easier for you to burn some body fat.