BELLY fat is notoriously difficult to shift.
Many of us diet and exercise until the cows come home – and our spare tires are still there.
But there are a couple of things you can do to zap it for good.
We’ve all got abs, it’s just that some lurk under thicker layers of adipose tissue (belly fat).
Reduce that layer and you’ll reveal your glistening six-pack.
We know that emotions are manifested in our gut and abdomen, with many trainers these days believing that those of us who have a higher storage of fat in that area have it because we’re exposed to prolonged bouts of stress.
So your first port of call should be to try to get a good sleep.
It’s recommended that you get around eight hours of sleep each night to allow your body to recover from the day and repair any damage it needs to overnight.
The next is focusing on getting lean, and a lot of that is to do with how your body – and belly – metabolises sugar.
Zana Morris is the author of The High Fat Diet: How to lose 10lb in 14 days, and she’s also the founder of The Clock and Library Gyms.
As well as being an expert in weight loss and strength training, she’s a particular whiz at zapping belly fat.
She says that belly fat is indeed linked to sugar consumption.
“Sugar causes the release of insulin, which in turn encourages the body to store fat particularly around the middle,” she told The Sun.
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So…does that mean that if you cut out sugar, you’ll lose that stubborn spare tire?
Zana says yes.
“Cutting sugar and foods that break down quickly into sugars (e.g. fruit/bread/pasta/wine), will reduce and stabilise levels of insulin as well as help your body to look to fat for fuel.”
It’s that state of ketosis that can force the body into burning more fat.
Zana says that ketosis is so good because it can heighten energy levels, reduces hunger pangs and “burns fat very quickly”.
Her method instead promotes a high-fat nutritional plan.
“The most effective formula for getting rid of belly fat is combining high-intensity training (e.g sprinting or whole body weighted exercises like squats) with a very low carb (sugar) and high fat plan.
“Fat is the only food group that doesn’t cause the body to release insulin.”
So fat doesn’t beget fat.
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But it is worth saying that not every plan is going to work for everyone.
And going sugar-free is incredibly hard.
Nutritionist Lily Soutter says that while insulin does play a role in belly fat, it’s just too simple to blame sugar intake alone.
She said: “Whilst insulin disregulation may play a role with belly fat, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only cause.
“Often there is a strong genetic component, which determines where we store fat.
“A chronic output of the stress hormone cortisol may also play a role with fat storage around the middle.
“Cortisol is released in response to psychological stress as well as physiological stress including lack of sleep.
“As we age, there is also a greater tendency to store fat around the middle which is partly be due to shifts in hormonal balance.”
Not all sugar is created equal
There are two main types of sugar:
These tend to be concentrated sources of sugar including table sugar, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and fruit juice. These are the sugars we need to minimise within the diet and aim to keep under 30g per day.
You also find sugars locked into a fibre matrix such as in fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates.
You can also find sugar in milk products, which also come with protein and fat.
This combination of fibre, protein and fat can help to balance blood sugar as well as regulate appetite.
Lily told us: “These sources of sugars are not necessarily linked to belly fat, and in fact may play a positive role when it comes to weight management.”
Going sugar-free not only does that mean cutting all free sugars (cakes, sweets, chocolates), it also means greatly reducing even slow release carbs like potatoes and rice.
We know that many super low-carb diets aren’t actually all they’re cracked up to be, because they often promote replacing fruit and veg with meat.
Zana’s plans, however, do stress that you can never eat enough dark leafy veg like spinach and broccoli – so you’re getting all the fibre you need with minimal sugar.
And if we really want to reduce our belly fat, is reducing sugar in all forms the best way?
Lily is clear that we don’t need to ditch all sugar – we just need to be mindful about reducing our free sugar intake.
“Not necessarily, because sugar isn’t the sole cause of belly fat distribution.”
“We don’t usually crave bags of white sugar. What we crave is a combination of fat and sugar, which comes with the hyper-palatable qualities we’re searching for,” said Lily.
“If looking for healthier sugar alternatives, focus on healthy options such as fresh fruit dipped in protein and healthy fat rich nut butter, or Greek yoghurt with grated apple and a pinch of cinnamon.”
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If you really want to start shifting any belly fat, your best bet is to really cut back on any refined sugar (sorry!) – including any refined carbs – and stop mixing your fats and sugars.
Replace your carby breakfast with a high-fat meal (think yoghurt and berries, eggs and avocado on rye) and make sure that you’re getting a good balance of protein, fat and fibre throughout the rest of the day.
Cutting out whole food groups rarely works for most people, but it’s worth trying to moderate excessive consumption of quick release energy – especially if you’re not prepared to put the hours in at the gym.
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