We don't have to look far for incentive to go to the gym. In addition to the mental health benefits of working out, it's rewarding to feel "in shape," even if weight loss isn't our goal. Of course, many people seek workouts that burn the most fat — and burning belly fat is a common objective. If you're looking to burn belly fat, a healthy combination of fitness and nutrition is key.
David Chesworth, an ACSM-certified personal trainer and wellness coach at Hilton Head Health, told POPSUGAR that, unlike muscle building, there aren't specific exercises that "spot reduce fat." However, a combination of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and the right nutrition plan can help reduce belly fat.
"Those on a weight-loss plan who focus on both nutrition and fitness have been shown to reduce belly fat quicker than those who only focus on fitness or only focus on nutrition," Chesworth explained.
Chesworth recommended Tabata, one of the most popular forms of HIIT training. Tabata involves 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest repeated eight times. Three rounds of Tabata lasts 12 minutes.
"If you choose to do one upper-body focused round of Tabata, such as wall push-ups, one lower-body focused Tabata exercise, such as squats, and one core-focused Tabata exercise, such as mountain climbers, you will not only get a full-body strength workout, but also an intense cardio workout," Chesworth said. At the end of the workout, it's important to spend five to 10 minutes stretching in order to complete a well-rounded fitness routine.
Holly Roser, a San Francisco-based personal trainer and nutrition expert, told POPSUGAR that HIIT has the "best research behind it with its ability to burn higher rates of fat and build muscle in a short amount of time." Like Chesworth, she emphasized that we can't "spot treat" specific areas. "You can't simply lose fat in just one area, but [you can] do total-body workouts to reduce overall fat, which, in turn, will lower the body fat percentage in your body," Roser said.
In order to reduce overall fat, Roser recommended the following workout, which can be done at the gym or at home.
- Three sets of 15 squats (with weights if you have them)
- 50 jumping jacks
- Three sets of 15 push-ups
- 25 mountain climbers
- Three sets of 30 lunges, alternating legs
- Three sets of 15 deadlifts
- 10 burpees
- Three sets of 15 rows
- 30-second plank
- Three sets of 15 Lat pulldowns
- Three sets of 15 triceps dips
- 30-second side plank on each arm
- 25 squat jacks
- 50 jumping jacks
Reducing fat in any area of the body won't happen through exercise alone — nutrition also plays a crucial role. David Nico, PhD, a healthcare strategist, keynote speaker, and certified wellness coach, told POPSUGAR that people looking to reduce or prevent belly fat should "avoid refined sugar, fried foods, and alcohol, [and] eat nonstarchy vegetables, low glycemic fruits, and healthy essential fats."
In addition to healthy staples like fruits and vegetables, Nico said that healthy fats and lean meats are an excellent addition to your diet. "Eat healthy fats from flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, bursting with essential fatty acids and great for energy to workout and keep fit," he told POPSUGAR. In addition to eating cold-water fish like wild sockeye salmon, Nico suggested grass-fed and grass-finished bison because "it contains higher levels of CLA, supporting belly fat reduction."
Now that you've got your workout and nutrition regimen in order, there's one last step: stock your cabinets with vitamins and supplements that help burn belly fat. "Omega-3 EPA/DHA and omega-6 GLA are essential fats, which are often deficient in the standard diet and help to reduce belly fat," Nico told POPSUGAR. "A high-quality supplement provides additional support if you are not consuming enough in the diet." He also recommended milk thistle extract, which supports and detoxifies liver cells that are important for fat loss. "Patients tend to lose body fat more rapidly if their liver is functioning better," he explained.
There's not one simple way to reduce belly fat — but incorporating a HIIT workout, healthy eating habits, and supplements into your daily regimen will help you achieve your goal.