Belly fat accumulates just beneath the skin and deep within the abdomen surrounding the organs. The fat is known as subcutaneous fat and visceral fat, respectively. Reducing your caloric intake and exercising regularly are the two ways to naturally reduce both types of fat around your waistline, and both strategies take time to produce results — think weeks, not days. Modifying your diet leads to quicker results compared to exercise, but a combination of both strategies will help melt away the fat even faster.
How Body Fat Is Burned
Your body burns, or oxidizes, fat to use as energy. Fatty tissue is basically stored energy. Your body’s preferred source of energy comes from carbohydrates, such as breads, pastas, rice and related foods. Once the energy generated from carbohydrates is used up in the body, your body pulls from fat stores. Your body pulls fat from all of your body; you can’t control which part of your body the fat comes from. You can burn away excess belly fat quicker by focusing on a whole-body approach to weight loss rather than trying to target the abdominal area with crunches and situps.
Reducing Caloric Intake
Your body burns a certain amount of calories per day naturally, which is called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. The average adult male’s BMR is roughly 2,900 calories per day and for females is 2,200 calories. This can vary depending upon your muscle mass and your physical activity level. If you eat fewer calories than what your body requires each day, you’ll lose weight. If you were to cut 500 calories from your BMR, you’d be on pace to lose 1-lb. per week. At this rate, you could expect to see noticeable results around your waistline within two or three weeks, such as your pants fitting slightly looser. You can use an online BMR calculator to quickly estimate your BMR.
Targeting Fat With Exercise
It takes a bit longer to melt away belly fat with exercise compared to dietary changes, and this is because it’s tougher to burn calories than to restrict the calories you consume in the first place. Moderate exercise performed at about 55 to 65-percent of your maximum heart rate burns the highest percentage of fat calories compared to other exercise intensities. Your max heart rate is your age in years subtracted from 220. High-intensity training burns more total calories overall during a workout, so it’s also an effective belly fat-burning strategy.
High vs. Moderate Intensity
While moderate exercise burns a higher percentage of fat calories vs. carbohydrate calories, high intensity exercise will melt away your belly fat quicker since you’re burning more total calories and it has an anabolic, or muscle-building, effect (source 2). The more muscle you have, the easier it is to burn excess body fat. Both types of exercise can help you reduce belly fat, but with high intensity exercise the results will become apparent within a week or two of steady training three-to-five days per week.
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- Built Lean: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) — Best Cardio to Burn Fat
- SIU School of Medicine: BMR Calculator
- Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance; William D. McArdle, et. al.; 1996