The stomach is a problem area for most people because the body loves storing fat in the midsection. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and crazy ideas on how to lose inches off your stomach. There are diets, exercise plans and even creams that claim to help burn off that extra fat, but the truth is that there is only one way to do it: eat less and move more.
The body stores fat because you eat too many calories. There is no way to control where the body stores fat, you can only control how much fat the body needs to store. A calorie surplus is a state in which you eat more calories than you burn. For example, if you eat 3,000 calories per day but only burn 2,000, that extra 1,000 calories has to go somewhere. Your body will store that extra 1,000 calories for later use in the form of body fat which over time, causes unsightly weight gain.
The opposite of a calorie surplus is a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is a state in which which you burn more calories than you eat. For example, if you burn 3,000 calories per day but only eat 2,500, you have created a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day. Since you are burning 3,000 calories but only providing your body with 2,500, that shortfall of 500 calories per day has to come from non-food sources, typically body fat. Over time, this causes weight loss, a decrease in body fat percentage and inches off your stomach.
During weight loss, it is impossible to control where your body burns fat from. A calorie deficit simply forces your body to use fat for energy, it does not (nor does anything else have) control where that fat is burned from.
Diet for Fat Burning
Creating a body fat diet is simple. All you need to do is burn more calories than you eat. The first step is to figure out exactly how many calories you burn each day. The easiest way to do this is to use the calorie calculator. Based on your size, age, gender and physical activity level, the calculator will estimate how many calories you need to maintain your weight, lose weight or gain weight. Play around with the physical activity level. Notice how many more calories you would burn by exercising more. The more calories you burn through exercise, the less you have to cut from your diet. This is especially important if you love eating high calorie foods. Next, put those numbers into action by cutting your calorie intake to the recommended level.
The size of your calorie deficit should be around 500-750 calories. That means, if the calorie calculator estimates your daily calorie needs to be at 3,000, you should eat 2,250-2,500 calories per day to promote weight loss and fat burning. A larger calorie deficit has the risk of putting you into a starvation mode which can actually slow down weight loss. If you want to burn fat at a faster rate, exercise more rather than eating less.
Counting calories is one of the most effective ways to ensure you're eating the proper amount. In the past, this meant writing down all your meals & snacks. Today, this process has been simplified. MyFitnessPal is an app that runs on your smart phone and makes it very easy to count calories. You can scan barcodes, search for foods and never have to worry about adding everything up.
Another tool you can use is Eat This Much. This website will make a meal plan based on the number of calories you want to eat. You can use their more advanced options to include or eliminate certain types of food from the meal plan. Everything takes only a few clicks.
In addition to the number of calories, certain types of food can also help you cut inches off your stomach. Some foods are digested very quickly. These foods go through your system very quickly and do little to help quell hunger. This will result in an increased calorie intake and a smaller calorie deficit. Stay away from foods that are made with a lot of sugar or refined/white/simple carbohydrates (soda, candy, junk food, fruit juice, sweet tea, doughnuts, muffins, cookies, white bread/rice/pasta).
Instead, eat foods that are high in fiber, complex carbs and whole grains. Fiber dramatically slows down the digestion process which will keep you full for a longer period of time (fruits, vegetables, 100% whole wheat bread/pasta, brown rice, beans).
Exercise for Fat Burning
Losing inches off your stomach requires exercise. Exercise can burn a large amount of calories which in turn will create a larger calorie deficit. There are different types of exercise that you can use to lose inches.
Cardiovascular exercise (cardio) is any type of exercise that increases your heart rate for an extended period of time. Cardio has the potential to burn a large amount of calories. You should engage in some form of cardio 3-5 times per week, lasting 45-60 minutes per session. Good forms of cardio include: most sports, running, stair climbing, bike riding and swimming.
Strength training plays a very important role in cutting inches yet is often overlooked. Strength training, either in the form of weight lifting or body weight exercises, builds muscle. The reason that strength training is important is because the more muscle you have, the more energy you burn throughout the day, even at rest. Building more muscle will speed up your metabolism and help you create a larger calorie deficit. It will also make you look more toned. You should engage in strength training 3-5 times per week. The two main types of strength training workouts are full body or split routines.
One caveat to strength training is that targeting trouble areas of your body with specific exercises (known as spot reducing) will not do anything to burn fat from that area. For example, sit ups will not burn fat off of your midsection just as close grip bench press will not burn fat from your arms. Spot reducing does not work.
The Bottom Line
The only way to burn fat from a specific area of your body is to create a calorie deficit by eating less and moving more. In addition to cutting your calories, choosing the right foods will also help promote weight/fat loss. The right amount of exercise is also crucial in burning fat and building muscle.