Time to Tackle Belly Fat

Time to Tackle Belly Fat

Time to Tackle Belly Fat – As restrictions begin to ease and the days get longer, it’s time to start thinking about dealing with those extra pounds, which may have crept on over the last few months. We ask Christine Bailey, top nutritionist, and author (www.christinebailey.co.uk) for her top tips on tackling belly fat.

Get Your Foundations Right

People desperately want to believe in shortcuts, fat busting supplements or ‘magic weight loss powders’. The truth is there are no quick fixes when it comes to changing your body composition and shifting fat, particularly belly fat. Calories and then the right balance of your macro nutrients – protein, carbs and fat are the first areas to look at. Sadly, the truth is that we can’t just eat ‘clean foods’ and ignore calories. We can’t supplement our way out of a bad diet or starve ourselves through the day only to binge eat in the evenings. Work with a nutritionist to get the foundations in place first. 

Keep it Simple

Whether you are a novice chef or love creating a gourmet meal, when you first start off on dietary changes it is best to keep things simple. Cooking from scratch does not have to be complicated and it will enable you to track more specifically how much and what you are eating. The specific foods we eat and when we eat them impacts how much we eat. Protein rich foods for example improve satiety and help balance blood glucose levels in addition to its known benefits on supporting fat loss. In addition, ensuring sufficient fibre rich veggies, beans, and pulses etc each day can help curb appetite and cravings. If you are cutting back on how much you are eating, you want to ensure you are getting all the essential nutrients your body needs – so quality and quantity are important. 

Look at your environment

Do you struggle to stick to diet? Manipulate your environment. Our environment can greatly impact our food choices and much of this is in our control. We can make sure the fridge is stocked with the foods we want to eat and clear the junk out of the house. We can also plan our meals each week to avoid impulse buying at the local shop. If there are tempting chocolates, cakes or sweets in the house keep them out of sight or not easily accessible to avoid mindless eating. 

Get back to your workouts but don’t over train!

While many people have kept up with their workouts during lockdown, if you have had a break then it is important to start your training slowly and build up gradually. If you are looking to change body composition – lose fat and build muscle, then strength training is a must but get advice from a personal trainer to make sure your form and workout routine is right for you.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, is now a popular form of exercise. HIIT training is where you alternate between periods of high-intensity exercise and low-intensity recovery. Put simply it is a more time-effective way for losing fat than pounding the treadmill for hours.  For example, one study found that people lost more fat doing 4 to 6 30-second sprints (with 4-minute rest periods) than 60 minutes of incline treadmill walking. HIIT training works on several levels – it increases your metabolic rate for longer after you finish exercising. It also improves insulin sensitivity which helps your body utilise the food you eat as energy (rather than storing it as fat). It also increases catecholamine levels, chemicals which are chemicals that mobilize fat for burning.  Try including some HIIT training twice a week as part of your regular exercise programme. 


Ditch the Booze

While technically alcohol is termed a macronutrient, it is not an essential nutrient. Alcoholic drinks are often referred to as “empty” calories. There are 7 calories in every gram of alcohol. This means that they provide your body with a lot of calories but devoid of nutrition. Additionally, when alcohol is consumed, it is tempting to start snacking on not so healthy foods. In a study of more than 2,000 people, frequent alcohol consumption was associated with more belly fat.  If you’re looking for 1 lb of fat loss per week, you need a 500-kcal deficit daily – an easy way to start cutting back is simply to forgo that evening drink. 

Hold the Sugar

We know sugar in its various forms is not great for our health, but it’s also not good for our waistline. Observational studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat (belly fat). Don’t think that ‘natural sugars’ such as maple syrup, or agave nectar are any better for your waistline either. Fructose found in many syrups, drinks, fruit juices and fruit smoothies has been shown to increase belly fat.  There are healthier options available of which xylitol, a type of natural sugar alternative made from plants, is one. Whilst there are many different alternatives on the market, xylitol (available in stores as Total Sweet) looks and tastes most like sugar and thus makes cutting down on sugar that bit easier.

Up the Protein

If you’re trying to lose weight and cutting the calories, one thing you should not skimp on is protein. A high protein intake increases the release of the fullness hormone PYY, which decreases appetite and promotes fullness. Protein supports healthy metabolism and helps you retain muscle mass while you lose fat. Various observational studies have shown higher protein intake is associated with less belly fat. Make sure every meal contains a good source of protein including breakfast – think eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, dairy, beans, and pulses.

Christine Bailey (Nutritionalist)

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