HealWithFood.org's Guide to Losing Abdominal Fat   ( Home | Diet | Foods | Recipes )

Diet Plan for Losing Abdominal Fat


diet for losing abdominal fat

It is widely known that excess body fat can be detrimental to health, but most people are unaware that fat that is accumulated around the waist area is particularly dangerous. People with apple-shaped bodies (body fat stored around the midriff) have a greater risk of several diseases and conditions—including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, sleep apnea and certain forms of cancer—than people with pear-shaped bodies (more fat stored in the lower part of the body, that is, in the hips, buttocks, and thighs).

There are two main types of fat in the waist area. Visceral fat, stored beneath your abs, is deposited between the internal organs. This is the type of abdominal fat gives the stomach a "beer belly" or "pot belly" appearance, in which the abdomen protrudes but at the same time feels hard when you touch it. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is stored just under the skin. It is what gives a belly a flabby, wobbly appearance. Both types of belly fat can be harmful to the health, but visceral fat even more so.


Committing to a healthy diet and exercise regimen is the best way to reduce stomach fat, whether visceral or subcutaneous. Dietary factors that may help fight belly fat are discussed below.


#1:  Cut Down on Calories, Especially in the Evening

To lose body fat, including abdominal fat, you will have to create a calorie deficit, either by reducing your calorie intake from foods so that your body has to draw on reserves for energy (such as fat stored within the body) or by increasing physical activity. To lose 1 pound per week, you need to create a weekly deficit of 3,500 calories. This can be done by reducing the daily caloric intake by 500 calories (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). Most health professionals recommend creating a caloric deficit of 3,500 to 7,000 per week for healthy and successful weight loss. An extreme deficit (a deficit of more than 7,000-10,500 calories per week) can compromise bodily functions and even result in heart rhythm abnormalities, which can be fatal.

To lose 1 pound per week, you need to create a weekly deficit of 3,500 calories.

Cutting too many calories may also be counterproductive to weight loss efforts, as extremely low calorie diets boost the activity of fat-storing enzymes and decrease the activity of fat-burning enzymes in the body. In addition, cutting too many of calories can accelerate loss of lean muscle mass and decrease the output of the thyroid hormone, which will result in a decrease in the metabolic rate and thus fewer calories will be burned throughout the day.

In addition to restricting the amount of calories consumed, people with excess abdominal fat should pay attention to the timing of the daily caloric intake. It is generally recommended to spread the calories throughout the day by having 5-6 small meals. This will keep the metabolism humming and reduce cravings for sweets and starches. The breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day as a big breakfast will help get your metabolism going and you will burn more abdominal fat throughout the day.


#2:  Limit Your Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is very high in calories: 7 calories per gram, almost as many as in a gram of fat. Most of the indigested alcohol is converted into acetate by the liver, which is then released into the bloodstream. Studies have shown that acetate is used by the body in preference over other fuels, particularly fat, thus putting the brakes on effective abdominal fat loss. In addition, an alcoholic drink either prior to, or during a meal, has been shown to increase the caloric intake at the meal, probably due to the appetite promoting effects of alcohol.


#3:  Watch Out for Fats but Don't Eliminate the Good Fats Completely

A high intake of dietary fat can lead to fat accumulation in the abdominal area and other parts of the body. Fat contains more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates. A gram of fat provides 9 calories (39kJ) whereas a gram of carbohydrates or protein contains 4 calories (16.8kJ). Furthermore, contrary to the common belief, fats are the least filling of all the macronutrients (you become hungry sooner after a fatty meal than a meal high in fiber-rich carbohydrates or protein). Fat also has a low thermogenic effect, that is, the body uses very little energy for the breakdown of fat (only 0-3 percent of its calorific value). In contrast, protein has a high thermogenic effect (20-30 percent), which means that the body burns a significant share of the calories provided by a protein-rich meal in the process of breaking down and digesting the meal.

That said, it is important not to completely eliminate all fats from diet. Essential fatty acids (EFAs)—found in large quantities in such foods as nuts, seeds, fatty fish and unrefined whole grains—are absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of the body. These fats cannot be synthesized by the body and must therefore be obtained through diet.

In contrast, saturated fats — found in foods from animal sources like meat and dairy, should be avoided. These fats have been shown to promote fat accumulation and weight gain more than the unsaturated EFAs. The body does need saturated fats in very small amounts for some particular purposes, but the body is able to synthesize its own saturated fatty acids when needed.

Trans fats, yet another type of fat, should be completely eliminated from diet. These fats are formed in a chemical process that food manufacturers use to turn liquid oils into solid fats and to increase the shelf life of foods. They are most often found in fried foods, vegetable shortenings, hard margarine, cookies, crackers, chips, and baked goods. In addition to their other detrimental effects on health, trans fats can lead to a higher overall body weight, even when the total caloric intake is controlled. In one animal study, male monkeys were fed either a western-style diet containing trans fats or a diet that contained monounsaturated fats such as olive oil. All monkeys received the same, modest amount of calories. The monkeys who ate trans fats had a 7.2 percent increase in body weight, compared to a 1.8 percent increase in monkeys that were fed monounsaturated fats.


#4:  Choose Low-GI Carbs

Carbs that have a high Glycemic Index (GI) rating are quickly broken down by the body and cause a rapid, large rise in blood glucose levels, which in turn triggers the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy, but high amounts of insulin promote fat storage in the body. In contrast, low-GI carbs, which take much longer to digest, cause only a small, slow rise in the blood glucose and insulin levels. In addition, low-GI foods reduce cravings as they provide the body with a slow, steady supply of energy. Most non-starchy vegetables, legumes and fruit have a low GI rating while most refined carbohydrate-rich foods and potatoes are rated high on the Glycemic Index.


#5:  Step Up Your Fiber Intake

Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that the enzymes in your body cannot digest. It is therefore not absorbed into the bloodstream and thus provides zero calories. Furthermore, the fact that foods high in fiber generally require more chewing and the fact that the brain is ten minutes behind the stomach give the body time to realize it is full and thus reduce the odds of overeating. High fiber foods also tend to make meals linger longer, leaving you feel full for a greater amount of time.


#6:  Drink Plenty of Water

Water provides no calories but can increase the feeling of fullness. In fact, it has been suggested that drinking large volumes of ice-cold water could actually burn calories. This is because ice water needs to be warmed to body temperature when it enters the body, which requires energy (calories). Consuming 2 liters of ice water a day would result in roughly 70 extra calories burned.

water
Drinking ice-cold water may help burn calories.

Furthermore, staying well hydrated encourages the body to use the kidneys, rather than the liver, for eliminating waste products. One of the liver's main functions is the conversion of energy from stored body fat. If the liver does not have to focus on eliminating waste products, it can concentrate on mobilizing body fat.


#7:  Burn More Calories with Capsaicin

Several studies suggest that capsaicin, the major pungent ingredient in cayenne peppers, can increase the body's heat production (thermogenesis), thereby increasing the rate at which the body burns carbohydrates and fats. One study showed that capsaicin in hot chillies could increase the resting metabolic rate by up to 25% (the resting metabolic rate is the rate at which the body burns carbohydrates and fats at rest). The effects on the metabolic rate peaked at 75 to 90 minutes after the consumption of the capsaicin and lasted for up to three hours.

Furthermore, research suggests that capsaicin can suppress appetite and reduce the amount of calories consumed during subsequent meals: In one trial, half of the subjects were given tomato juice with chili powder, while the rest drank it plain. Those who received the drink containing the capsaicin consumed 16% fewer calories on average.


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